The cancellation of Minnesota Duluth men's hockey tournament games at Amsoil Arena this weekend in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a blow to businesses at both the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center and nearby restaurants and breweries frequented by Bulldog fans before and after home hockey games.
“There’s the loss of people being able to work, but that also means we don’t have the labor costs that we normally would have … of course there’s a huge economic impact for that,” said Chelly Townsend, executive director of the DECC.
More cancellations followed as large gatherings of people were voluntarily called off nationwide to curb the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness that develops from the new coronavirus.
Three conventions scheduled for the DECC in March and April were also canceled Thursday in what became a “crazy day” for the DECC, Townsend said. Another six conventions were “pending,” she added.
Earlier in the day, when only two conventions at the DECC had been postponed or canceled — the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association and the Concrete Paving Association of Minnesota — Visit Duluth President and CEO Anna Tanski estimated $525,000 of lost economic impact.
“So it's not just us,” Townsend said. “We take it really seriously that the hotels and restaurants depend on the business that we have, and we feel sad for our local partners.”
Just the cancellation of this weekend’s hockey tournament games will have a “huge” effect on nearby businesses, said Brian Daugherty, president of Grandma’s Restaurant Co., which owns several in Canal Park: Grandma’s Canal Park, the Sports Garden Bar and Grill, Little Angie’s Cantina and Grill and Adventure Zone arcade.
“For hockey games, especially playoffs, these are fantastic opportunities for people to go out both pre and post (game),” Daugherty said. “So, yes, this is going to leave a mark this weekend.”
He predicted the cancellation of a hockey game would cause 25% less business at the Sports Garden, 10% less at the company’s other Canal Park locations and even a 5% drop in business to the Grandma’s Miller Hill location.
Similarly, Hoops Brewing in Canal Park regularly serves fans before and after the UMD games. Owner Dave Hoops predicted the cancellation of this weekend’s tournament will cause a 20-25% drop in revenue from the lack of a fan base.
“It will affect us quite a bit,“ Hoops said. “I was actually fairly eager to promote the fact that I’d have the game on all my TVs.”
Before the tournament was completely canceled Thursday, it was announced Wednesday night that the games would continue without a crowd in attendance.
Hoops said the brewery will stay open and staff have taken extra cleaning precautions. He just hopes the coronavirus passes soon.
“I'm terribly worried about the economy, which all businesses are — everybody is,” Hoops said. “We will not close until it's irresponsible not to be closed, and I hope that doesn't happen.”
Daugherty said Grandma’s staff will “reinforce and over emphasize all training” and will add touchless hand sanitizing dispensers at entryways at all of its businesses and has increased the strength of cleaning fluids and disinfectants.
“We are over emphasizing and increasing our efforts — like our lives depend on it — because they do,” Daugherty said.
But his businesses, so far, will remain open, Daugherty said, including Saturday evenings at the Sports Garden, a popular dance spot for college students.
“It can be hundreds of people, but during a time like this, it will not be that,” Daugherty said. "We can anticipate that through self-regulation and people being very conscious of what risk group they’re in and not going out, this is probably going to be a softer weekend.”
Canal Park Brewing Company, which is also taking extra precautions to sanitize surfaces and keep their employees healthy, was more optimistic about this weekend.
“I don't anticipate it affecting our business too much,” manager Carson Bohren said Thursday. “Usually hockey tournaments do send us a nice little flux before the game starts, but we're usually pretty busy on the weekend.”
The brewpub is looking to get through it.
“We just kind of have to roll with the punches,” Bohren said. “We haven’t seen a whole lot of less business with the coronavirus, but time will tell.”
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