'The town is devastated because of this' is the message from David Fitzmaurice, Vice Chairperson of Listowel Race Company, who said hosting Listowel Races behind closed doors will hit the local exchequer to the tune of €15million.
For local pubs, the races are worth in the region of 25 to 30 percent of annual turnover, while local shops and businesses are also impacted by the loss of Listowel and north Kerry's main event in the year.
The ripple effect even extends to hotels in Tralee, where many racegoers stay during the seven-day racing extravaganza.
The news everyone expected was delivered by Listowel Race Committee Chairperson Pat Healy on Wednesday last.
"The Listowel Race Company has made the extremely difficult decision to race behind closed doors, this means the event will not be open to the general public this year," Mr Healy said.
"The health and safety of everyone is our number one priority...We would also like to acknowledge and thank the residents and business community of Listowel for their contribution to the Festival down through the years, and we already look forward to welcoming everyone back in 2021," he added.
Listowel Race Company recently invested in drainage works and in enhancing the Wi-Fi service at the track. But the blow to the coffers means it will now struggle to meet loan repayments for this year.
Racing behind closed doors wipes out track revenue from catering income, hospitality and ticket sales.
Mr Fitzmaurice added that a six-month waver from the banks will only 'kick the problem down the road', as deferring loan repayments in the short term will end up increasing repayments in the longer term.
Pubs in Listowel have invested hugely in their premises of late, refurbishing and making them more suitable to deal with social distancing. But a lack of income during race week will add further misery on the sector. Of the 17 licensed premises in Listowel, only two are open at the moment. The average cost of pub refurbishments is between €10,000 and €15,000.
"I can't reconcile how Horse Racing Ireland can close the racecourse, which is 10 times bigger than all the pubs put together, while the government may allow the pubs to reopen. That makes no sense. It will be interesting to see what happens before then," said Mr Fitzmaurice.