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NHL lockout drain on more than just players and owners

Published: Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 10:27 a.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 1)

(MCT) — CHICAGO — Don Lonergan had a message for his family as the holidays approach.

“I told my wife, ‘We’re going to have a Christmas, but it’s not going to be like it was,’” Lonergan said.

Like many others who don’t lace up skates or sign the paychecks for those who do, Lonergan is caught up in the sway of the NHL lockout that continues to drag on with no end in sight. The 51-year-old from the South Side is in his 24th year as a vendor, selling “whatever they need” during Hawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox games.

On Wednesday night at the United Center, Lonergan was situated just inside Gate 6, selling programs to fans pouring in for the Bulls’ season opener against the Kings. The start of the NBA season is welcome work for those who make a living in and around arenas.

“(The lockout) affects everybody,” Lonergan said. “It’s like a domino effect. Players, the people working the building (like) the ushers, cooks, police ... (those) who make deliveries and sell food and souvenirs. It goes on and on.”

Thus far, the lockout has meant lost revenue for three exhibition and five regular-season Hawks games as well as the training camp festival. With the NHL having canceled the schedule through November, at least five more home games will not be played.

Many owners of bars and restaurants on Madison Street near the United Center say business has been poor since the lockout began. The start of the Bulls season offers some relief, but only some.

“It’s a totally different demographic, NHL fans and NBA fans,” said George Lemperis, owner of Palace Grill, 1408 W. Madison St. “It’s an event going to Blackhawks games — it’s a party atmosphere. Bulls fans, they just come in right before the game and they leave right after.”

Lemperis said a typical Bulls game fills about eight tables while Hawks games pack the 80-seat diner. He estimates he has lost thousands of dollars for each canceled Hawks game.

“It’s a terrible time,” he said.

Not far away, Billy Goat Tavern owner Sam Sianis said his employees have been feeling the pinch with many taking fewer orders and getting fewer tips.

Even regulars of the hamburger joint at 1535 W. Madison have noticed the empty chairs and tables. Still, Sianis is hopeful Bulls games will draw a large gathering, especially after a victory.

“When they play, everyone wins,” he said.

Until the Hawks play again, it will mean leaner paychecks for those who rely on income from the events.

“It’s a drain on your finances,” said one vendor who wished to remain anonymous. “You just have to weather it out.”

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