LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky Derby is back, but not quite back to normal yet.
Churchill Downs is not operating at full capacity, meaning fewer people have flocked to the Bluegrass to celebrate the Derby and the return of spring. And that’s not good any year, but much less when businesses need a big economic impact. The Derby traditionally has about a $400 million impact on the Bluegrass region but is expected to generate about $35 million during the 147th Kentucky Derby.
However, J. Render’s Southern Table and Bar owner Gwyn Everly said she’s cautiously optimistic about what business will be like this weekend.
"We are actually probably doing more right now than we would a normal Derby weekend. I think it's because not as many people are going to the Derby. It's limited. So, people are going to find somewhere to gather,” Everly said.
2020 was a challenging year for the service industry, but Everly said the pandemic is contributing to an unexpected boost in business.
Everly said reservations were booming for Oaks Day, and even the to-go stayed busy.
“Not everybody is ready to dine out. I don't think that curbside cocktails are leaving. I don't think curbside pickup is leaving. I think that that's a convenience now that people have and they love it. We're happy because that's another revenue stream for us. So it's great because I think we've actually built it up to make us even more stable,” she said.
So while the economic impact of the 147th Kentucky Derby may not feel as significant as in pre-pandemic years, business owners like Everly are looking at it as a sign of progress.