Kelly’s Sports Bar was named by Time Out New York as the top Hockey Bar in New York City. The NHL lockout has caused Kelly’s business to drop over 60 percent leaving the owner Gerry wondering where the business will come from now.
THE STORY: For six years, Kelly’s has been Lower Manhattan’s bastion for fans of the Buffalo Sabers. But when Time Out New York named Kelly’s as the top hockey bar in the city in 2011, the bar had a banner year. It was packed wall to wall for the Stanley Cup Finals, which involved teams from Los Angeles and the New Jersey Devils.
The success, however, was short lived, and it had nothing to do with changes in the bar. On September 15, the NHL owners locked out the Players Association due to irreconcilable differences in the current collective bargaining agreement. On Monday Dec. 10, the NHL cancelled all remaining games in 2012, bringing the total number of games cancelled to 526, or 42.8 percent of the entire schedule.
Since then, Kelly’s has seen it’s night business drop over 60 percent. Weekend nights used to require two bartenders and a bar back. Now they only need one.
The bar has found something of a life raft with basketball fans, but they aren’t coming in droves the way that hockey fans did.
In the meantime, owner Gerry and his staff await news of when their client base—and their primary source of income—will return.
TRANSCRIPT:Gerry: Well I came in one morning and Jesus was up there on the wall and he had all these sports things around him. It looks like we’re going to have to take the puck away from Jesus even though he loves hockey and he loves sports.
G: We were mobbed for the Stanley Cup Finals. Every night. We had a big crowd for the Kings. Even people that weren’t supporters of the Kings were in. We had a lot of people getting more into hockey. We were getting a lot of business—new business from hockey.
Anchor: Hopes for a December 1st restart in the National Hockey League were dealt another setback on Sunday when the League and the Players Association broke off talks after just more than an hour. NHLPA Exec Donald Fehr said he had no idea when the two sides might meet again and that he doesn’t see a path to an agreement.
G: Oh its really cut our night business by I’d say 60-70%. Its really affected us badly. It’s just devastated us. We’ve lost a bartender every night since there’s no hockey on. We’ve cut back to one bartender. We used to have two and a bar back for the bigger games. People are losing jobs over it.
G: I think hockey is the best American sport. It’s the toughest sport and they’re the best athletes…and I love the game.
G: Some of them still come in. They’re very upset. They’re really annoyed because they love their hockey and they can’t see it. They’re crying in their beer. We can only hope that basketball gets a lot more popular or we’ll just try something else. Hockey was the lifeblood of this business.
BEHIND THE SCENES: My uncle used to be part owner of the biggest hockey bar in Detroit. When the Red Wings would make the Stanley Cup Finals, the crowds would be so huge that the bar would often cover its financial obligations for the year in that week. When the Wings missed the playoffs, the bar would struggle to stay open during the offseason. It was his anecdotes from the bar that gave me the inspiration to do this story.
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