ST. PETERSBURG — Dogs resumed racing on May 8, and now historic Derby Lane is set to welcome back the fans who bet on them, as well as poker players, on Wednesday.
With other businesses, including casinos, opening around the state, Derby Lane CEO Richard Winning said they felt they had the proper protocols in place to get back to their usual business for the first time since the mid-March shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve been waiting to get open as we had a difference of opinion with the local authorities," Winning said. “I guess now that all the bigger venues are opening everybody had a charge of heart.
“We’re going to make a run for it. I think it’s great we’ll get our employees back to work, which is important for the local economy. Just moving forward."
The track will run 15-race cards at 12:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and add a 7:30 p.m. Saturday program starting May 30, along with simulcast wagering. The more popular poker room will be open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. seven days a week at 50 percent capacity, with 26 of the 52 tables in use and a six-player limit per.
Winning said they feel comfortable with the safety protocols in place, starting with having all patrons, vendors and employees subject to temperature checks upon entering the facility. Plexiglass barriers and social distancing markings on the floor have been added, along with cleaning and disinfecting protocols, he said.
All employees be required to wear masks, and all but poker dealers will wear gloves, per protocols listed on the track website. Poker players will be required to wear masks and gloves. Patrons at the track are required to wear masks in the building, but not in the open areas such as the grandstand. Masks will be provided for those who don’t have one.
With the 95th and final season at Derby Lane before greyhound racing is outlawed already disrupted, Winning said they are hoping to make the best of it. Admission is free, and they are offering $1 hot dogs, sodas and beers along with other concession items. The once-famous buffet will not re-open.
“If you’ve got nothing to do, come out and have a hot dog and a beer or a Coke and enjoy the afternoon, enjoy the races, whatever," Winning said. “There’s plenty of room to stretch out and be safe."