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'Opportunities for the future': Louisville businesses capitalize on Derby's economic impact

Greater Louisville Inc. described the city's current Derby-week activities as back in full swing after the last few years of set backs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — One of Derby Week's newest additions, the "Rabbit Run," may lack speed but it packs a punch in influence -- enough to shut down E. Jefferson Street through Friday night.

Rabbit Hole Distillery, located in NuLu, launched its own highly-sought after Derby celebration in 2022. It is one of the dozens hosted during Derby week.

"The Rabbit Race is really an opportunity for us to cast a wide net and bring a lot more folks to the table," Founder and CEO Kaveh Zamanian said. 

Greater Louisville Inc. described the city's current Derby-week activities as back in full swing after the last few years of setbacks.

"It brings a lot of economic impact to our businesses," Olivia Sievert with GLI said. " We hope [tourists] will come back after they see all the great things we have to offer."

Credit: Ian Hardwitt/WHAS-TV
Rabbit Run 2023.

They did in 2022. That year, attendance at distilleries along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail surpassed 2 million for the first time ever, the Kentucky Distillers' Association announced in February

While visitors come and go, Greater Louisville Inc. points to their lasting impact on Louisvillians.

"It also has a lot of great quality of life aspects for everyone in our community," Sievert said.

GLI said 2023 spending totals are on par with pre-pandemic totals. It predicts spending, directly and indirectly, during this year's Derby will reach $400 million.

"It brings not only tourism dollars but also, opportunities for the future," Zamanian said.

NuLu's newest development, Hotel Genevieve, is looking to capitalize on the opportunity and opened Wednesday -- just three days before the greatest two minutes in sports.

"If you think about it, people need a place to stay, right? So we decided to open first thing," General Manager John Fields said.

Located at 730 E. Market Street, Hotel Genevieve features several restaurants and bars with a rooftop view of the city. 

The hotel's theme pays homage to Louisville's French connections. The hotel is part of a bigger trend in boutique hotels, having smaller spaces with a more intimate experience. 

Fields wouldn't share specific booking numbers for Wednesday but had this to say about business on the first day.

"We are amazed at the way people have responded to our hotel. I can tell you that our occupancy hit far beyond what we thought we would do this weekend," he said.

It may not be so surprising, taking a look at the metro's booming hotel industry right now.

GLI believes hotels could book more guests by the end of Derby Week 2023 than ever before with a predicted 96% hotel occupancy rate.

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