Century-old diner feeling the effects of a postponed Kentucky Derby

Century-old diner feeling the effects of a postponed Kentucky Derby

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Businesses across Louisville are feeling the economic impact of COVID-19 and the Kentucky Derby’s subsequent postponement.

The Tuesday before the Derby is usually set aside for Dawn at the Downs, which usually means Wagner’s Pharmacy is packed with customers. This Tuesday, Wagner’s was empty. The diner sits across the street from Churchill Downs, and has been in operation since 1922. The week before the Kentucky Derby is the restaurant’s busiest time of the year.

“If you hit Louisville, you hit Churchill Downs, you’ve gotta come to Wagner’s," employee Pamela Pryor said. “This place should be so busy that you can’t even move in here.”

Pryor has seen the restaurant’s recent struggle firsthand. She’s worked at Wagner’s for 21 years, and told WAVE 3 News she’s never seen the building as empty as it’s been since March.

“[We’re doing] maybe 20-25 percent [of business],” Pryor said. "Maybe.”

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Wagner’s to replace their in-person dining with carry-out and curbside pickup. The restaurant will also have to wait four months to see the Derby’s economic benefits. According to Louisville Tourism, the race is projected to bring an economic impact of nearly $400 million to Louisville in 2020.

“There’s just nothing we can do," Pryor said. "Nobody can move. Nobody can do anything and it’s brought a lot of industries down.”

Pryor said employees will do their best to make it to September, so they can eventually see their customers again.

“[I’m hoping] all my people come back," Pryor said. "To open the doors and all of my customers be safe and come back to see us.”

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