As the National Hockey League (NHL) lockout reaches its 11th week without resolution, local Buffalo businesses are being hit hard by the lack of hockey-related business revenues that usually increases this time of year. U.S. Senator Gillibrand today urged the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) to engage with small business owners in the Buffalo area regarding available assistance for their businesses during challenging situations.
“The Buffalo Sabres are a vital part of the economic life of downtown Buffalo and the lockout has been absolutely devastating for local businesses,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Local small business owners rely tremendously on the revenues generated from Sabres’ fans to keep their establishments operating and it is imperative for them to have knowledge of the resources available to assist them through this difficult time.”
“The loss of hockey has a real economic impact,” Visit Buffalo Niagara President and CEO Dottie Gallagher-Cohen said. “The loss of hotel room nights bought by visiting teams and their fans as well as the loss of restaurant and bar revenue to downtown businesses. In Buffalo, we really feel it as many of our Canadian friends fill our arena and enjoy our downtown restaurants and bars. We estimate about 1 million dollars lost in hotel stays but that is significantly compounded when you factor in the loss of Canadian spending. We are all looking forward to watching hockey again and we hope it’s soon.”
During the winter months, Buffalo Sabres fans gather in downtown Buffalo for the 41 games each year, not including potential playoff games, eating at local restaurants and celebrating after the games. Downtown Buffalo establishments also gain significant revenues from opposing teams fans and many Canadians that come over the border and spend time in Western New York. Even during away games, Buffalo businesses are bustling with fans spending time downtown.
The current NHL lockout is a result of a labor dispute through the league’s collective bargaining agreement and has been ongoing since September 15. At this time, the lockout has cost the local Buffalo economy nearly $2 million in lost hotel revenues alone, and with no end in sight is set to cost small businesses even more as games continue to be cancelled.
The SBA has loan programs, including a micro-loan program that provides small, short-term loans for small businesses that can be used for working capital or the purchase of inventory, supplies and equipment. Their Small Business Development Center at Buffalo State College also offers technical assistance and long-term guidance to help businesses retool after an unforeseen hardship.
In her letter to SBA Administrator Karen Gordon Mills, Senator Gillibrand urged the SBA to host workshops on available assistance for small business owners during challenging situations such as this.
Below is full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to SBA Administrator Mills:
Dear Administrator Mills,
I write to you today to bring your attention to struggling small business owners in downtown Buffalo. As you may know, the City of Buffalo is home to a National Hockey League team, the Buffalo Sabres. Unfortunately, the National Hockey League season has been shortened due to an ongoing dispute between the players’ union and team owners, and may be cancelled altogether if an agreement cannot be reached. The effect of the lockout on Buffalo’s downtown economy has been devastating, as hundreds of businesses and their employees rely heavily upon revenue generated from Sabres game attendees. These operations range from restaurants and nightclubs to merchandisers and transportation companies.
As business owners continue to face the uncertainty of their future due to a situation entirely out of their control, I ask that the Small Business Administration work with my office in engaging affected business owners to address their loss, and to make them aware of any business-relief programs that may be available to them. In particular, I urge you to consider hosting a workshop on available assistance for small business owners during challenging situations such as this, possibly in coordination with New York State’s Empire State Development, the Small Business Development Center network and other relevant resources.
I look forward to working with you on this request.