Reporting Bill Hudson
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – In St. Paul, disappointment has replaced any lingering optimism that the NHL lockout could end soon.
Businesses near the Xcel Energy Center continue to struggle 83 days into the stalemate with no end in sight. Many bars and restaurants say they’ve seen a drop in business that’s taking away 40 to 50 percent of their annual revenues.
Instead of St. Paul streets bustling with red and green jerseys, the mood couldn’t be grayer. A quarter of all Wild home games are already lost – costing bars, restaurants, workers and vendors.
Greg McLeod of Innovative Office Solutions says his company is not just a major Wild supplier, but home games are an important way for Innovative to entertain their other customers.
“So far this year we’re down 25 to 30 percent over where we were last year,” McLeod said. “Part of our business strategy is to leverage the relationship with the Wild and those games, to meet with clients and manufacturers and prospective clients. So when the games aren’t happening, that venue’s not available to us.”
Joe Kasel, co-owner of Eagle Street Grille, says his business has lost 50 percent of its revenues and has let go two-thirds of its staff.
“It’s very hard to look them in the eye and say, ‘You know what – you go to go find different work, because we don’t have jobs for you,’” Kasel said.
Senator Amy Klobuchar says that as the lockout continues, businesses are scratching to survive.
“A lot of businesses are missing a lot of revenue and it means that we’re missing jobs,” Klobuchar said.
The senator was one of several leaders at a roundtable held on Friday. The Small Business Administration (SBA) offered to help with advisors to tap new business and provide micro loans for emergency capital.
Nancy Libersky, SBA’s district director, says her organization will work with businesses to figure out their loan options.
“Our guaranteed lenders are capable of talking to these businesses and really finding out their needs in order to place them with possibly the right SBA loan,” Libersky said.
At this point in the season, the Wild would have hosted ten home games already – providing jobs to hundreds of hospitality workers – and bringing about $9 million into the local economy.
Eagle Street owners say they will survive even if the entire season is lost. However Mayor Chris Coleman was pretty blunt. He says he knows of a few that are not going to survive the lockout.
Coleman declined to name any of those businesses on the verge of collapse.