NHL lockout spooks downtown businesses
While the NHL season has yet to suffer, the lockout of players that began Sunday already has some Montreal businesses worried about their bottom line.
If any games are cancelled — or if the season's scotched altogether — establishments from bars to souvenir shops stand to lose significant chunks of their revenue.
"It's going to be a very rough year. We are going to be in the minus," presaged Khalid Maskour, whose souvenir shop on Ste. Catherine Street West teems with Montreal Canadiens shirts, hats and flags.
Maskour already had left-over merchandise when the team didn't make the playoffs last spring. A short or cancelled hockey season will take a big bite out of his sales — during the winter.
He estimated half of his business revolves around Habs souvenirs.
"Right now, we call all the companies and we froze our bookings. Because I have no idea what's going on," he said.
No deal in sight
The league's owners locked out the players as of Sunday, and there's no deal in sight to resolve their contract dispute.
The NHL believes salaries are too high and wants players' share of the league's total revenues to be scaled back to 49 per cent next season from 57 per cent, eventually dropping to 47 per cent.
The season is scheduled to begin Oct. 11, but the likelihood of that happening declines with each passing day of the work stoppage.
It could be devastating for Rino Massironi, owner of Café Presto, an Italian restaurant on Stanley Street just 2½ blocks from where the Habs play. He figured he stands to lose 80 per cent of his sales.
"Eighty per cent impact because, I said, we are small. And we are waiting for the hockey games to start. No hockey, no business."
'Ridiculous' amount of money
Ziggy Eichenbaum, who owns Ziggy's Pub on Crescent Street, said it's hard to sympathize with either of the two sides in the labour dispute.
"I don't know what exactly the players are thinking. What are they going to do, drive their Ferraris, Porsches, and Lamborghinis to the Bell Centre and then go upstairs and picket? The owners and the players got to get together and go 50-50 and come back," Eichenbaum said.
"It's ridiculous the amount of money that they're talking about that we can't even comprehend."
Eichenbaum said he usually hires three or four extra staff to deal with the crowds during the hockey season. For now, that's on hold. He learned his lesson during the last NHL work stoppage, the lockout that cancelled the 2004-05 season and cost him half his revenue, he said.