NHL lockout could deliver bodycheck to bottom line of North Shore pubs and restaurants
Tonight the Vancouver Canucks should be playing the Dallas Stars.
Normally, that would mean some extra jersey-clad patrons at North Vancouver’s Hurricane Grill, a restaurant known for good food, friendly service and its puck-friendly atmosphere — hockey memorabilia decorating the walls and 13 large flat screens to watch games on.
While Hurricane Grill isn’t a sports bar, owner Ash Ranjbar explains “we’ve made a name for ourselves as a place to come and watch hockey.”
But on this Thursday evening, with the NHL schedule frozen by a lockout, there will only be football and baseball on the TVs.
With no NHL, Ranjbar estimates business is off by about six per cent compared to same time last year at his North Vancouver restaurant.
While he doesn’t attribute that dip solely to the lockout — there are other possible contributing factors: weather or the economy, for instance, he explains — Ranjbar concludes “hockey is definitely part of that percentage.”
The numbers are likely worse at his second Hurricane Grill location opened four years ago in Yaletown, just blocks from Rogers Arena, where 42 regular season home games bring in fans for pre- and post-game meals and drinks.
Still, the young restaurateur isn’t sweating it, yet.
“It hasn’t been too bad,” says Ranjbar, sitting inside the North Van Hurricane Grill.
Fortunately, there’s NFL, soccer and until recently the World Series. And typically, early in the hockey season, there isn’t as much interest in watching games as fans get warmed up, he explains.
“Right now the pinch isn’t that hard.”
But, if the entire NHL season was lost, he expects his bottom line will be off by 10 to 15 per cent.
As an entrepreneur, he understands the owners’ stance; having spoken to several NHLers — many Canucks frequent his Yaletown location — he also empathizes with their position in the CBA stalemate.
But he’s also a fan.
“As a fan, I’m starting to get disappointed,” says Ranjbar, who just finished talking hockey with a customer from Winnipeg seated at the end of the bar.
“The fans get hurt and the little guys get hurt,” Ranjbar says.
Colin Denton, GM of the Village Taphouse in West Vancouver, says the only noticeable difference without hockey so far has been during the slower nights, Sunday to Wednesday, when games might bring in some fans. If, however, the lockout heads into January he figures sales will slide, noting that it’s during the second half of the season and playoffs when fans really start going out to pubs and restaurants to watch games.
In the meantime, with no Hockey Night in Canada on TV last Saturday night, Ranjbar instead brought in popular local musician Adam Woodall to play and he plans to continue with live music from 7 to 10 p.m. on Saturday nights in North Van to give “people another reason to come out.”
Ranjbar, who weathered the complete cancellation of the 2004-05 NHL season, is hopeful there will be hockey this year.
“I’d like to think that it will come back in the New Year,” he says.