Merchants weigh in on changes as Saratoga racing meet nears halfway point

August 05, 2019 06:37 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS -  If things are slower than usual during this racing season, you couldn't tell Monday afternoon.

The sidewalk was filled with visitors and Cantina in the middle of Broadway had a big lunchtime crowd.


Owner Jeff Ames counts himself among the fortunate because his restaurant is doing well even when the track is closed. Not so for some of his colleagues.

"Midweek days have been softer around town certainly in the restaurant biz. I think those two dark days are probably having some impact on it," said Ames.

A block off Broadway, the Hampton Inn had its best July ever. Owner Mike Hoffman, who's been in the hotel business for 44 years, says the late announcement by NYRA that they were opening earlier put them a little behind, but so far, so good.

"If we could plan a little better, we could do better, but we're happy."

Hoffman says he's thankful Saratoga isn't a one-horse town.

"There's a lot to do in Saratoga that doesn't have to be racing. And the other thing I'd tell you is the concert season is huge."

Hoffman says two nights of Dave Matthews at SPAC bolstered business on the same July weekend the track opened.

Back downtown, Mare Barker, the long-time owner of Impressions of Saratoga, would like NYRA to switch to Tuesday and Wednesday dark days, but says business picked up when the calendar changed and now it's a race to the finish.

"Long days, not very many meals, but that's a good thing. We can rest all we want in January," laughed Barker.

Hotel operators aren't necessarily thrilled about the notion of switching to Tuesday and Wednesday dark days because they can typically get a higher rate on Wednesdays.


Mark Mulholland

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