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Luna’s Coffee, Wine and Butterfly Cafe 

What do you get when an agricultural economist and an entomologist open a restaurant? A butterfly cafe, obviously.  

Served by Blue Grass Energy, Luna’s Coffee, Wine and Butterfly Cafe offers an inviting spot for brunch, lunch or drinks, as well as the chance to observe the lifecycle of moths and butterflies and learn how to improve their habitat.  

“It was our COVID midlife crisis,” jokes co-owner Alison Davis, an agricultural economics professor at the University of Kentucky, whose entomologist husband, Web Barney, had been breeding moths and butterflies for about five years prior to opening the restaurant, and he needed a home for his hobby. Drawing on Davis’ pre-grad school restaurant experience, a new concept took flight. 

“I’d open up my fridge and there would be some caterpillars or some eggs, and so I’d always been kind of looking for a place for him where he could do his passion,” Davis says. 

COVID provided both impetus and opportunity. After Barney had a bout with the virus, he found it difficult to return to his job as a UPS driver during the peak holiday season. At the same time, local laws had changed to allow the sale of alcohol in Jessamine County.  

Open since April 2021, Luna’s offers a thoughtful menu crafted with help from Kitchen Manager Eli Gruver. Breakfast might be a blueberry and brie sandwich or a bagel with smoked salmon. For lunch, customers enjoy sandwiches like the black bean burger or chipotle chicken and salads like the poppy bleu. Don’t forget dessert, from beignets to affogato, and stay for the full coffee bar, wine and bourbon lists and cocktail menu.  

Davis and Barney originally envisioned a spot that would combine Barney’s butterfly and moth breeding hobby with limited menu, focusing on coffee and cocktails. Soon, however, the cafe’s food grew in popularity and the menu grew to meet demand.  

“It has been perceived as being just a really nice, light, fresh, healthy feeling type of venue,” Davis says. “It was designed so you would walk away and not feel like you just over-ate.” 

The cafe offers two spacious dining areas—one of them available to rent for parties, usually on weekends. Luna’s also hosts weekly trivia nights, Mondays at 6:30 p.m., with gift cards as prizes for the top 3 teams each week. 

Davis and Barney have 12 employees, and many of them have been with them since opening in 2021. “It’s cliché to say you’re a family,” Davis says, “but our workers are part of it, and customers love to see them.” 

Creating a great workplace culture may not be easy, but it’s also not complicated. “We were fortunate to create a place people wanted to come work every day,” Davis says. “We pay above a living wage, and we get our hands dirty just as quickly as everyone else does. We work hard, we’re here, we’re visible. We laugh a ton. It’s just an enjoyable place, I think, to go to work.” 

And the butterflies? They operate on nature’s timetable, but Barney says you can expect the luna moth, monarch butterfly and others to emerge this month into their display cages. After they emerge, Barney moves moths and butterflies into an outdoor butterfly house, where they’ll live until being released into the wild later in the season.  

Passionate about his subject, Barney educates customers with questions about butterfly habitat, and he also sells plants for the home garden that support these species—“anything we can do to help the environment,” he says. 

“Our value proposition is we really wanted to help folks understand the value of having this kind of ecosystem, and what needs to get done so that we preserve butterflies,” Davis says. “We serve high quality food and drinks at a reasonable price, we’ve got great service, but lots of places do—but you won’t find anything else like this in the entire country.” 

Located at 109 Springdale Drive in Nicholasville, Luna’s Coffee, Wine and Butterfly Cafe is open 7:30 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday and Friday; 7:30–3 p.m. Tuesday–Thursday; 8 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturday; and 9 a.m.–2 p.m. Sunday. 

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