LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Many Louisville restaurants were big winners after the Kentucky Derby thanks to thousands of guests visiting from out of town for the week of horse racing.
Businesses have been crossing their fingers for months, hoping that Derby would help make up for some of the losses from 2020. WDRB News contacted several restaurants and tourist destinations across Louisville to see how business went for the 2021 Derby week, and every owner or marketing director said they were pleased with the boost and that it was great to see people out and about again.
“Downtown was rocking all weekend,” said George Timmering, co-owner of Bearno’s By the Bridge. “Thursday through even yesterday, if they didn’t get their flight back on Sunday or a later flight. We were very busy all day on Sunday, too.”
Timmering said Bearno’s downtown location was up 15% over the same four days of the 2019 Derby weekend. The co-owner said the customer demand is there, so he’s hopeful that business continues to steadily grow after Derby, too. Timmering plans to focus his energy on hiring more staff for every position to handle what he hopes will be a busy summer.
It wasn’t just downtown restaurants that saw a boost. Those in the Highlands were also packed with people not going to the track but wanting to enjoy the celebrations.
And Jason Brauner, co-owner of Bourbons Bistro on Frankfort Avenue, said his restaurant was busy and full all weekend, too. However, he said while the boost was obviously better than 2020, it still didn’t match what they were doing before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were probably 30-40% down from 2019,” Brauner said. “So we have our fingers crossed, and hopefully, those numbers start to creep back up a little bit as they’re releasing some of the restrictions.”
Brauner said he is also trying to hire more workers to handle the customer demand moving forward.
Louisville Tourism was predicting that the Derby would bring an economic impact of $35 million, compared to around $200 million for a regular Derby week. The city’s tourism agency is planning to release 2021’s final numbers Tuesday.
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