Aldo Lamberti knew exactly what to do when he heard the NBA lockout was officially on. He called Celtics GM Danny Ainge.
"I left him a message," said Lamberti, who manages Sports Grille Boston on Canal Street. "I told him we got to get this done. People are starving out here."
Lamberti never connected with Ainge, but he said the lockout was "horrifying" for his restaurant. There has been very little business. No specific numbers were stated, but it was enough to make him nervous considering he has a family, cars and bills to pay.
Even after a handshake agreement was announced on Nov. 26, when the players and owners finally ended the 149-day battle and settled how to handle their $4 billion business, several games had already been cancelled. For local bars and restaurants, lost games meant loss of dollars, which will linger until the Celtics' home opener on Dec. 30.
"That's what we live on down here," Lamberti said standing near his cash register. "Celtics, Bruins, concerts, circus."
"Guys like me," said a patron listening in.
"Guys like Andy."
Andrew, who goes by "Andy," lives across the street from Sports Grille Boston and frequents the bar at least 363 days a year — sans a few holidays. He has lived in the area for three years and said a typical Celtics game night is "wall-to-wall packed." Fans of every age come doused in green with everyone's eyes fixated on one of the 131 TVs in the bar. But lately, the place has been dead.
"The Bruins make their schedule contingent on what they thought the Celtics were going to be," Andy said. "So there's a big void here."
"Every business on the street and area is like that" added Lamberti. "That's what we live on."
Fifteen bars and restaurants line the streets between the Garden and the Haymarket T stop. Just 148 feet away from Sports Grille Boston lies The Four's, a popular bar where manager Peter Colton said the numbers were down.
"When that happened, you kind of go in survival mode," Colton said. "You cut back. Make sure you're doing your rents, payables, payrolls, taxes — things like that."
Frank Velez, manager of Hawkeye's Bar and Grill in Chicago, had to cut back on staffing.
"We have a lot of college kids that pay their own rent," said Velez of his servers. "They're not privileged kids. They have to work three, four, five shifts a week to help pay their rent. And if we don't have those games you know, it affects them too."
Similar to Boston, Chicago is one of the NBA's 29 cities affected by the lockout. Velez saw a growing interest in the Bulls last season, especially when they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. But since the games were cancelled this season, Hawkeye's took a hit "big time."
"We go sometimes four or five games between Blackhawk games that would normally have been filled by a preseason Bulls game or a regular-season Bulls game," said Velez. "It definitely has affected us."
A few blocks down at The Drum & Monkey, owner Tim Casey said he did not expect his bar to feel a big hit until the new year.
"With the Bulls you feel it more I would say in January and February than any other time because that's when nothing else is going on," said Casey who has owned the bar for three years. "The Super Bowl will be getting over. The season playoffs are done with football and there's no more college football. So yeah NBA and hockey carry the way. Without the NBA, it really hurts."
Lamberti said he followed the lockout intently. Once it was officially over on Dec. 8, and a new collective bargaining agreement was reached, his first thoughts were "hip hip hooray."
"Those are my shifts," said Lamberti. "The Celtics games are my shifts. It's a good money maker."
Velez did not follow it quite as closely. It was an argument for millionaires and billionaires.
"I wouldn't side with anyone of them," said Velez. "But I'm glad they're back because we need it, for us, for the little guy."
Photo via Flickr/Eric Kilby