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NHL lockout hurting Coliseum-area businesses

Frank Borrelli, 53, is the co-owner of Borrelli's,

Frank Borrelli, 53, is the co-owner of Borrelli's, a restaurant located a quarter mile from the Nassau Coliseum on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow. (Dec.14, 2012) Credit: Heather Walsh

Three months into the National Hockey League lockout, businesses along Hempstead Turnpike near the Nassau Coliseum are feeling the pinch from the cancellation of Islanders home games -- and there may be no end in sight for distressed merchants.

Several restaurants near the arena, where hockey fans and arena staff often dined before and after games, are reporting steep reductions in revenue from late September through mid-December, when 17 home games and three preseason games were canceled.

Another four home games later this month have also been canceled, and the remainder of the hockey season, including 21 more home games this season at the Coliseum after the first of the year, is in jeopardy.

Frank Borrelli, owner of Borrelli's Restaurant in East Meadow, said hockey games typically boost his business by up to 30 percent on weekdays and 15 percent on weekends. To replace that revenue, he has increased his marketing and begun off-premise catering.

"It does affect our bottom line and could set us back because all of our other costs, like taxes and payroll, are staying the same," said Borrelli, whose family has owned the restaurant for 57 years.

The business owners' concerns come not only as the lockout continues, but also as the local community and county officials prepare for the departure of the team for Brooklyn's Barclays Center in 2015.

Islanders games generated more than $60 million in local spending in the 2010 hockey season -- $26 million for tickets, $13 million for food and drink, $12 million on transportation and $10 million on hotels and retail -- according to a report by county economic consultants last year.

Nassau Comptroller George Maragos has downplayed the effects of the team's move and the lockout, saying the Coliseum was able to fill seats with concerts and other events during the 2004-05 lockout.

Barclays developer Bruce Ratner is preparing recommendations for transforming the Coliseum into a more competitive arena. He has said he will spend the first half of 2013 on his assessment.

While Nassau officials say data are not yet available on the economic impact of the lockout, East Meadow Chamber of Commerce president Millie Jones said the impasse likely will affect numerous area businesses, from bars and restaurants to doughnut shops.

"It's going to affect everyone on this strip of businesses" along Hempstead Turnpike, she said.

George Strifas, owner of the Colony Diner in East Meadow, said the lockout has taken a financial toll. Before and after games, the diner often was packed with fans, ushers, security guards and box office staff, he said.

Strifas estimated that over the course of the season, the diner could lose $40,000 to $50,000 in revenue from Islanders games while the wait staff could lose up to $7,000 in tips.

"We don't see those people anymore," said Strifas, who has owned the diner for 21 years.

The National Hockey League locked out its players for the second time in eight years in September after failing to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. Last week, the NHL announced the cancellation of games scheduled through Dec. 30. Talks between the league, its players' association and a federal mediator are continuing."Although we don't release specific numbers, the NHL affects our business by more than $100,000 every month," said Walt Ensminger, general manager of the Long Island Marriott, located next door to the Coliseum. "This number is significant to our business model." 

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