These Major Businesses Just Lost 400 Million Dollars Due To An Insane New Policy


 
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(The Center Square) – Everything about the Kentucky Derby is big – big hats, big bets, big crowds, big parties, big moments to celebrate the big horse race on the big day.

But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions put in place to slow the spread, far fewer people will be visiting Louisville this weekend for the rescheduled race, and the amount of consumer spending will be significantly lighter.

"The impact the whole of the Kentucky Derby season has on Louisville is well over $400 million, solidifying its ranking as the top tourism driver to the region annually," Stacey Yates, vice president of marketing communications for Louisville Tourism, told The Center Square.

Businesses of all kinds throughout the city usually fare well during Derby time, but this year's race delay – the first of horse racings' Triple Crown events is traditionally held on the first Saturday in May – and restrictions on public gatherings have thrown wrenches in many Louisville entrepreneurs' 2020 plans.

"There are none of the usual fundraising galas planned, so caterers, florists, tent rental companies are feeling the effects," Yates said. "With restaurants open at 50 percent capacity, and limited tourists, they will certainly feel the difference as well."

Yates also notes that there won't be large receipts from corporate entertainings and transportation spending – bus rentals, motorcoaches, taxis, ubers, and the airport – will be significantly lower.

The hospitality industry is still seeing some business. Yates said some hotel rooms have been booked by horse connections and media. There are also visitors in town for Labor Day weekend, though it is unknown whether they originally held Derby tickets and just decided to make a weekend of it in Louisville. Hotel occupancy downtown is about 30 percent overall when it usually approaches 100 percent.

"Even at 1 percent of a normal Derby, $3.4 million would be a sizeable 'convention' type business for the city," Yates said. "As the hospitality industry has been gutted since the start of the pandemic, we are grateful for any small amount of business."

Many other businesses and organizations are just trying to make the best of the situation.

Jennifer Rubenstein, director of Louisville Independent Business Alliance, told The Center Square about conversations she has had with small business owners regarding this year's delayed Derby.

Comments from 5-0 Lou's Small Batch Printing, one of Louisville Independent business members, include, "We have pretty much washed our hands of all things Derby this year. Saving all our Derby ideas for next year! We are focusing on 'pivoting' our business on helping other small businesses and entrepreneurs with their 'small batch' promotional printing."

"While our handyman business has been doing okay, our Airbnb business is completely in the toilet," Erin Clark of Scott of All Trades, another Louisville Independent business member, said. "Renters have to be much more heavily screened as we have had horrible luck since the pandemic with having good quality tenants."

Jenny Staten Brown of Bluegrass Awards and Gifts said, "We have a laser engraving business in Middletown and are not doing any derby business, as our corporate customers are not entertaining. Even individuals have not been asking for derby items and engraving."

Some have been able to leverage the "Derby at home" concept. Yates related stories of bourbon hunting, saying "Liquor stores and distillery gift shops are a popular destination over Derby weekend. With locals at home however, this may be one of the bright spots for retaining some business."

Another local bakery had a line out the door, Yates said, selling Derby-themed treats.



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