Churchill Downs Gets A Taste of its Own Medicine

Cheers for Judge Denise Clayton who overturned a provision in a Metro Louisville ordinance exempting Churchill Downs from the smoking ban. Serves Churchill Downs right for throwing the bar owners under the bus.

Churchill Downs management declined invitations to join the Metro Louisville Hospitality Coalition in fighting the ban, as if it were beneath them to work with the local hospitality industry. Big mistake. The locals repaid them with the lawsuit that removed the exemption.

This is the same Louisville business that has said it’s not that interested in hosting the Breeders Cup, an event that brings millions of dollars to the community.

Churchill Downs management knows a smoking ban will hurt its business. If they were smart, they would use their considerable clout to work with the bar owners and the Metro Council to revise the ordinance to allow smoking in age-restricted businesses where only patrons 21-years-old and over are allowed.

The clout deployed by Churchill Downs the first time must have been considerable to force Council members like Tom Owen, Tina Ward-Pugh and Ellen Call to argue that a smoking ban would cause economic damage to Churchill Downs but not other local businesses. Tom Owen was especially angry that the race track was threatened with a smoking ban.

Local bars and taverns are still reeling from the ban that took effect in July. Dan Heck, owner of the Siedenfieden Cafe, says he has lost 26% of his business since the ban took effect. John Dant, proprietor at The Back Door, says he didn’t take a paycheck in October, putting his money back in the business. Cres Bride, owner of R Place and Joe’s Older Than Dirt, very much fears the colder months when patrons can’t use his outdoor seating. They’re hurting bad, folks.

Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.