Down at the end of Lonely Street, which is what Broadway became during Kentucky Derby weekend, a lot of merchants were checking into Heartbreak Hotel. The city’s crackdown on cruising accomplished the intended goal of eliminating violence and crime on Louisville’s main drag, but it also had a lot of Broadway merchants screaming bloody murder about lost profits and overkill. The Rev. Louis Coleman of the Justice Resource Center passed out checks for $150 to some merchants who were particularly hurt.
For those of you keeping score at home, there were 35 felony arrests, 193 misdemeanor arrests and approximately 360 traffic and parking tickets issued. The good news was that nobody was killed or seriously injured. Apparently a few disgruntled cruisers made a mostly futile attempt to disrupt traffic on the side streets.
The economic damage was more difficult to quantify, but some businesses reported making less than $100 for the weekend. Others gave up and closed. Business owners who had overstocked in anticipation of the usual brisk Derby weekend business said they will have to eat their inventory or try to return it.
The image problem was something else to consider. The Rev. Coleman said that Broadway was like a “ghost town,” and, indeed, West Louisville had the feeling of a city under siege. Traffic on Broadway was virtually non-existent, and barricades were set up at most intersections. The custom car show at Derby Music Jam near the Water Tower was a bomb, and coordinator Dale Jackson put part of the blame on the strong police presence on River Road.
As city officials and the business community conducts its Derby postmortem, it’s obvious that some serious tweaking needs to be done. The mayhem of last year was intolerable and should never happen again. But the same may be said of this year’s merchant misery.
The businesses on Broadway have as much right as Churchill Downs, not to mention their brethren on Bardstown Road and Hurstbourne Parkway, to exploit the Derby.
BY BILLY REED