Sunday, May 20, 2018
Business

Businesses near Tampa Bay Times Forum hit hard by hockey lockout

TAMPA — Call it a double whammy.

Last month, many downtown businesses hungered for customers before and during the Republican National Convention.

Then last week, the National Hockey League canceled all its preseason games because of a dispute between owners and players.

The unfortunate combination has business owners near the Tampa Bay Lightning's home begging for mercy.

For Stephen Davis, it proved fatal. The owner of the Luxury Box sports bar across from the Tampa Bay Times Forum closed Sept. 10.

"You can't survive down there without hockey," said Davis, who opened the business in 2010. "If we had had a decent RNC and the hockey season would not have been suspended, we would still be open."

Davis expected some walk-in business during the convention but lost hope when security fences went up, blocking customers' access. Aside from a few security workers, his place was dead.

Even if the Luxury Box had done well during the RNC, Davis said his days were numbered. Fears of a lockout have loomed for months. He feared a repeat of 2004, when the entire season was lost.

"I was watching the whole thing and preparing," he said. "I knew it didn't look good."

Davis shut the doors permanently and is considering legal action against the city for the losses he incurred during the convention. Davis is also CEO of Tampa Bay Rain, a new franchise of the American Basketball Association.

His situation, while dire compared to most others, reflects the sentiments of many bar and restaurant owners reeling from a slow summer who now must face the possibility of losing business generated by hockey games.

"It's going to be touch and go for us. We're on the cusp," said Kenny Quillen, co-owner of Kenny's bar on Morgan Street, a few blocks from the Times Forum. "It's not worth going into the negative to stay open."

The 21/2-year-old bar relies on hockey fans and Times Forum employees stopping in for a drink before and after the games. He didn't expect big crowds during the convention but also didn't expect such a slowdown in the weeks leading up to the event. If the hockey lockout drags on for months, Quillen fears he'll have to close.

Hockey season pays for his entire year.

The Times Forum closed for six weeks in preparation for the Aug. 27-30 convention. The venue held three big concerts in June — Neil Diamond, Coldplay and Def Leppard with Poison — and a Tampa Bay Storm game on July 14, but nothing major since then. Two preseason hockey games at the Times Forum have already been canceled, and the Oct. 11 start of the regular season appears in doubt.

Rick Drury, owner of Precinct Pizza at Channelside Bay Plaza next door to the Times Forum, said the hockey games bring in customers all day long, from the workers at the facility to the police directing traffic to the fans. He hired extra people to work during the convention and hockey games but just laid off three people because of poor sales.

"Only the summer of 2010 during the BP oil spill was worse," he said of his 6-year-old business. "Usually, our sales are very strong, but we are currently at about 50 percent of our normal sales. I'm not sure if the NHL lockout is all to blame, but it is really bad right now."

Drury expects to lose the entire season and is planning accordingly to survive with less. He isn't panicking because he knows he isn't the only business enduring tough times. He also recognizes that not every pizza shop has his luxury of being so close to a sports arena.

The general manager of Hattricks is less concerned. The bar was rented out the week of the convention and enjoyed a huge bump in sales, said David Mangione, who is also a partner in the business. A lack of events at the Times Forum forced the staff to focus on its regular customers by providing good, consistent food and service, and promoting the bar through social media.

"It would be foolish for us to say we wouldn't miss hockey, but I don't know if the full impact will be felt until the football season is over," Mangione said. "And I say that a little guarded."

Over the past 16 years, the bar on Franklin Street has worked hard to attract hockey fans as well as downtown workers and visitors.

Mangione cited this weekend's boat show and other events at the Tampa Convention Center as opportunities to reach out to new customers.

The bar also has learned to adapt, he said. Hattricks survived the 2004 lockout and will do whatever it takes to keep moving forward.

Times staff writer Laura Reiley contributed to this report. Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.

Comments
Camping without the hassle: New service rents you all the gear you need, plus the car

Camping without the hassle: New service rents you all the gear you need, plus the car

One day in April, I returned from a camping trip - a quick 24 out of the city - and ran a load of laundry. Whatís more telling is what I didnít do.I didnít hose down a muddy tent, I didnít soak a shoddily cleaned pot, and I categorically did not empt...
Published: 05/19/18
Romano: Save your money, sports betting wonít be in Florida anytime soon

Romano: Save your money, sports betting wonít be in Florida anytime soon

It is the middle of the day and the beginning of the off-season at Tampa Bay Downs. That means the action is limited to simulcast wagering, and that means the televisions outnumber the bettors.The parimutuel industry is long past its heyday in Americ...
Published: 05/19/18
Son of Crabby Billís founder leaves complex legacy of troubled projects and good deeds

Son of Crabby Billís founder leaves complex legacy of troubled projects and good deeds

SOUTH PASADENA ó Like his father, who founded the Crabby Billís seafood restaurant chain, John Loder Sr. had a larger-than-life personality. That was one reason he dived into the real estate business, becoming a well-known, if at times controversial ...
Published: 05/18/18
Updated: 05/19/18
Global Tampa Bay initiative seeks to grow direct foreign investment through expanded regional teamwork

Global Tampa Bay initiative seeks to grow direct foreign investment through expanded regional teamwork

TAMPA ó A decade ago, the Great Recession put Hillsborough and Pinellas countiesí efforts to grow their foreign exports on hold.But since then those efforts have returned, gained support and momentum, expanded the range of their ambition and are now ...
Published: 05/18/18
Florida unemployment holds at 3.9 percent, state adds 9,600 jobs

Florida unemployment holds at 3.9 percent, state adds 9,600 jobs

Floridaís economy appears to have plateaued with its unemployment rate holding at 3.9 percent for the seventh straight month, according to the April report released Friday.But some economists say it may be a good thing if the rate doesnít fall much m...
Published: 05/18/18
Lawsuit over Riverwalk Place tower in downtown Tampa settled

Lawsuit over Riverwalk Place tower in downtown Tampa settled

TAMPA ó A lawsuit over the mix of residences and offices in the planned $350 million Riverwalk Place tower has been dropped.Last August, Riverwalk Tower Investment-Intown LLC, which had been expected to be one of the developers in the project, filed ...
Published: 05/18/18
Orlandoís new attractions power jump in theme park attendance

Orlandoís new attractions power jump in theme park attendance

By MIKE SCHNEIDERORLANDO ó The arms race to build new theme park attractions in Orlando is paying dividends. A new report released this week shows theme park attendance at the largest parks in North America last year was up 2.3 percent, powered by ne...
Published: 05/18/18
How Mosaicís relocation could help Tampa International Airport land a flight to Brazil

How Mosaicís relocation could help Tampa International Airport land a flight to Brazil

Tampa International covets a nonstop flight to S„o Paulo, Brazil. Mosaic Co, which is moving its headquarters to Hillsborough County, has huge holdings in the country, including several mines. Could Mosaicís relocation help TIA realize its dream? It ...
Published: 05/18/18
Remember that upscale Guy Harvey RV resort near Tarpon Springs. Forget the Guy Harvey part

Remember that upscale Guy Harvey RV resort near Tarpon Springs. Forget the Guy Harvey part

HOLIDAY ó A year ago this month, Guy Harvey Outpost Resorts announced plans for its first-ever RV park, near Tarpon Springs where the Anclote River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.The $35 million resort, named after the popular Jamaican marine artist...
Published: 05/18/18
American Dream Miami to become largest mall in U.S. after final approval

American Dream Miami to become largest mall in U.S. after final approval

MIAMI ó A gigantic $4 billion retail and entertainment complex won government approval Thursday after years of debate, greenlighting what promises to be the largest mall in North America, just a few miles from the environmentally sensitive Everglades...
Published: 05/18/18