During the week of the Preakness Stakes on the third Saturday of May, local restaurant owners, servers and bartenders, hotels, catering companies, transportation services and even charities count on increased business leading up to the the state's largest annual sporting event.
However, thousands of horse racing fans, trainers and jockeys won't be making an appearance in Baltimore anytime soon after the May 16 event was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the cash registers of local business owners bereft.
"When the Preakness is around, it's like a Saturday night every night," said La Scala chef/owner Nino Germano, adding that two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert is a frequent guest at the Little Italy restaurant. "For probably six days, it's Saturday night because there's always stuff going on. There's parties all over Baltimore that week. Everybody's going to events, everybody's bringing friends, and it brings a lot of people to town. So not having those people, it hurts a lot."
On Wednesday, WBAL-TV reported that Oct. 3 was the new date for the second jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown series, putting it after the rescheduled Kentucky Derby on Sept. 5. But owners of Pimlico Race Course did not confirm the NBC affiliate's report, and a source with knowledge of the negotiations told The Baltimore Sun that two other dates, including one in July and one in August, remain under consideration. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because no decision has been made.
"The Stronach Group/The Maryland Jockey Club is aware of speculation about a potential date for Preakness 145," the Jockey Club said in a statement. "At this point in time, there is no definitive date set and we continue to explore options. Once a date for Preakness 145 has been finalized, an official announcement will be made."
As the Jockey Club considers its options, businesses that would have benefited from the race are feeling the financial pinch.
Tammie J. Monaco, owner of Beck-n-Call Event Services in Butler, said that she usually would staff the Preakness with about 130 servers and bartenders for the race's corporate village, but the postponement has sapped her company of its largest single-day contract of the year, worth about $40,000.
"It's been a real blow," Monaco said. "Besides it being the largest single-day contract, my crew loves working it. It's just a fun event to work. It's where everybody is in Baltimore on the third Saturday of May. The whole world is watching. So it's a fun event to staff, a fun event to be part of."
Larry Frank, partner of The Classic Catering People in Owings Mills, said his company would not have staffed the Preakness itself, but would have provided full-service catering for corporate parties and events during Preakness Week and premade meals for individual homeowners hosting watch parties. He estimated that Classic Catering would have done about $100,000 worth of business during Preakness Week.
"It's one more reminder of why the event is important to the community," he said. "It's just another day that will sting a little bit."