LOUISVILLE, Ky. — “Great crowds all day Friday and Saturday” is how George Timmering, co-owner of Bearno’s Pizza on Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville, described the atmosphere at his business this weekend.

What You Need To Know

  • Downtown Louisville businesses are sighing with relief after a busy, lucrative weekend

  • Warm weather, March Madness, and relaxed curfew hours led to a welcome spike in sales for bars, restaurants, and hotels

  • A volleyball tournament at the Fair and Expo Center also helped boosted business along Whiskey Row

  • Throughout March Madness, which goes until April 5, 2021, several restaurants and bars downtown are offering food and drink specials

“It’s already our biggest weekend since [COVID-19 started], and it should be almost the same average as a good week pre-COVID,” Timmering said. 

So busy, Timmering opened up his pizza restaurant and bar’s party room. He said it’s the first time he's had to use it both Friday and Saturday night since the pandemic started.

“We had lines out the door,” he told Spectrum News 1.

A combination of factors made for better business, he said. Warm weather meant more locals flocked to downtown. There are also food, drink, and hotel discounts between First and Second Streets on Main Street as part of an effort to help businesses on Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville throughout March Madness.

Of course, the NCAA March Madness Tournament itself is also driving business with bars and restaurants showing the games on their big screens. However, Timmering said his main crowd came from another sport.

“Louisville Tourism did a great job bringing in the big volleyball tournament that was out at the fairgrounds and that brought almost 18,000 people to Louisville. So that’s the major surge,” Timmering said.

Hotels have also seen a boost. Assistant General Manager Jon Lykins at Aloft Hotel on Whiskey Row said there were more guests because of the Nike Mid-East Qualifier, which is the volleyball regional tournament that took place at the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center this weekend.

“The hotels were full. It was our second sellout post-pandemic last night,” Lykins said.

Aloft’s restaurant and bar, Corner Flavors of Kentucky, only re-opened six weeks ago, and Lykins said this has been their busiest weekend.

“It’s felt like the beginning of the end,” he said.

Lykins said being able to stay open an extra hour under Gov. Andy Beshear's new relaxed COVID-19 restrictions also helped.

“We did an extra $500 at last call,” he said. “We followed protocol, but we stopped serving when people were still wanting to stay with us and have drinks. And that was tough, but we really appreciate the ability to stay open an hour later.”

Bar and restaurant capacity remains at 60% in Kentucky, but Timmering hopes that with an increasing number of people getting the vaccine, things can return to normal by summer.

“This weekend was great, but it’s only going to get better,” Timmering said.

Throughout March Madness, which goes until April 5, 2021, restaurants and bars between First and Second Streets on Main Street in downtown Louisville have food and drinks specials. There is free parking, and hotels also have discount packages.