For three decades, there was always a big breakfast buffet that turned into an all-day party at The Office Pub and Deli in Frankfort.
Saturday morning, there were two customers in the restaurant who came in just before noon.
The televisions were showing the Tour de France. Though racing started at 11 a.m. at Churchill Downs, nothing was going to be aired until mid-afternoon, followed by the Kentucky Derby itself at 7 p.m.
For owner John Presley, it was a Derby Day unlike any other.
“Normally, we’d start serving at 7 a.m.,” he said. “People would come and congregate here. After they’d have breakfast, they’d hang out and make a day of it.”
For 31 years, Presley has hosted the annual Derby events, starting with breakfast in the morning and then continuing through the day.
“I’d have to cook allFriday night,” he said. “We’d usually have 140 or 150 people.”
Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Sporting events got postponed. Summer festivals were canceled. Gatherings are limited, or not allowed, as public events. Fans were not allowed at the Derby itself this year.
Saturday morning, it was a vacant, empty feeling.
Presley said after 41 years in business and 31 in the present location, he’s met a few people in Frankfort.
“It doesn’t look like I know a soul today,” he said.
With the Derby on Labor Day weekend, there is plenty of competition. Traditionally the unofficial last weekend of summer and a holiday weekend, there are plenty of other distractions.
“We have a great day today,” Presley said. “We’ve had a lot of years where the weather wasn’t great on Derby Day and people were looking for a place to go.”
The Derby Day festivities, he said, grew out of The Office Pub being a sports bar. University of Kentucky games are a staple, and the Derby fit right in, he said.
The few in the restaurant Saturday morning were tracking the early races on their cellphones.
“Do you have a reservation?” a waitress joked with one person who entered.
“Do you think I could bribe you for a table?” she asked back.
Hopefully, things will return to normal in 2021.
“It really saddens me because we’ve put this breakfast on for 31 years,” Presley said. “It’s something the people really looked forward to … . It’s a different world today.”
Presley was confident things would pick up as it got closer to post time Saturday. He was also planning a few outdoor activities like cornhole for customers to gather and pass the time.
“I hope to draw some sort of a crowd,” he said.