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NHL Lockout Could Cost Some Local Businesses Big Money

Experts say businesses that relied on fan revenue could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars

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Hockey Lockout Could Hurt Local Businesses

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Without Capitals fans swarming the Verizon Center for the foreseeable future, businesses throughout the D.C. area will feel it in their respective wallets.

A fall and winter without hockey will hit more than just fans who will miss the Washington Capitals and their other favorite NHL teams. Experts say some Washington-area businesses – especially those around the Verizon Center – could stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue due to the lockout that has stalled the season.

"That's a point that doesn't get discussed too often, but it's true," Washington Capitals forward Matt Hendricks said earlier this month. "Without hockey, there's a lot of different areas that are gonna be disrupted and hurt. It affects everybody."

The National Hockey League locked out its players on Sept. 15, when negotiations between the league and the NHL Players’ Association toward a new collective bargaining agreement broke down. The league is currently in the midst of its third lockout within the last 20 years and second in the last eight.

In Washington’s Gallery Place/Chinatown neighborhood, where the Verizon Center is located, the lockout could have a noticeable effect on local businesses that have relied on the Caps -- as well as the rest of the arena's regular tenants -- to stay afloat financially. Gathering places surrounding Verizon Center could collectively lose up to $100,000 per game, estimated Lisa Delpy Neirotti, Associate Professor of Tourism and Sports Management at George Washington University.

Each of those lost games, in turn, becomes a $10,000 per game loss in tax revenue for the city, she said.

The Caps, who are scheduled to open the regular season Oct. 12, play 41 regular-season home games, plus possible playoff games. If this work stoppage lasts the entire 2012-13 season like it did in 2004-05, those numbers skyrocket to $4.1 million in lost revenue to businesses and $410,000 in lost revenue to the city, respectively.  And that is without factoring in other spending on tickets, parking and merchandise.

"It's going to be worse this time around," Neirotti said, referencing the Caps' cellar-dweller status entering the last lockout and their resurgence since. "[Restaurants] are used to a full arena the last couple years for the Caps, whereas the last go-around, the Caps weren't drawing as many people. Those restaurants that have been used to having a large Caps crowd are going to be hurt more this time around."

One of those restaurants, the Greene Turtle at the intersection of 6th and F streets NW, finds itself in an interesting predicament; the sports bar is literally attached to Verizon Center. Fans can access the restaurant from inside the arena, and pre- and post-game crowds do so with gusto. Before and after Caps games, patrons clad in red jerseys fill the establishment to capacity.

According to Greene Turtle CEO Bob Barry, the NHL lockout will only have a "fairly minor" impact on his other 33 franchises, but the impact on the Verizon Center location - the only full-service location within the District - will be "fairly significant," especially if the entire season is lost.

"[Hockey fans] are tailgaters," Barry said. "They like to gather in groups to watch sporting events. After the games, it's not like people just go home. They hang out. Win, lose or draw, they celebrate and have fun, wearing their colors and that type of thing."

Barry also mentioned that the Caps bring in "double the business versus pretty much any of the other events taking place at Verizon Center," which includes the Wizards, Georgetown Hoyas and several big-time concert acts.

The Verizon Center location, which opened in March 2007, ranks fifth out of 34 total restaurants in terms of overall sales, according to Barry, but a extended lockout could negatively impact business by up to 20 percent.

Barry said that there is no contingency plan currently in place in case of a cancelled season, but that all Greene Turtle locations should be fine through January because of football season. If the NFL wraps up and there is still no CBA in place, however, Barry will have to find ways to make up for the lost revenue.

"We'll put a plan together to promote other sporting events and try to see if we can make up for it," he said. "As far as the Verizon Center is concerned, we would hope to work with Monumental Sports, the landlords/owners of the Verizon Center."

“If they knew that things weren't quite settled, we would hope that they would add concerts or additional sporting events to help support the loss of the hockey season."


Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamVingan and e-mail your story ideas to adamvingan (at) gmail.com.

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