Comox Valley bars feeling slight dip in business with no NHL games on TV

BILLY D'S OWNER Deana Simkin is one of several Comox Valley pub owners who's noticed a dip in business due to the NHL lockout.
— image credit: File photo

It's hockey season — but there's no NHL hockey on TV as long as team owners and players fail to see eye to eye at the bargaining table.

As long as there's an impasse, fans are left to ponder other options come Saturday when Hockey Night in Canada broadcasts normally air.

The Record asked local bar owners what they think of the lockout. Is there a noticeable drop in business? Or is it business as usual, with regulars showing up regardless of hockey?

"There is a bit of a drop, and that's only normal because guys quite enjoy coming out to the bars and watching the games," Whistle Stop owner Barry Van Dusen said. "Everybody's upset because there is no hockey.

"The CFL is almost done and the NFL is going to be done soon, so what are we going to watch? Tiddlywinks?"

Van Dusen said the Courtenay pub has its share of regulars who might stick around a little longer if a game is on the screen.

"We do have a lot of Vancouver Canucks' fans," he said.

At Billy D's in downtown Courtenay, most patrons will walk through the doors regardless of hockey. Games are a bonus, says owner Deana Simkin.

"They do stay longer and have a couple more drinks, so it might be affecting it (business) slightly," said Simkin, noting playoffs are a busier time. "Once in a while, if get close to the final we'll do a couple of specials. But people will come in just to watch the game. They're happy that there's six TVs in here."

Like the Whistle Stop, Billy D's gets its share of blue Canuck jerseys during hockey season.

Valori Schaefer says the situation is similar at the Griffin.

"We always did better when big games were on, but I don't think it affected it for the regular season," said Schaefer, office manager at the Comox pub.

Playoff games, however, promised a "big night" at the Griffin.

"That will make a big difference. We've got big screen TVs all over the place hooked into our sound system. It was always a big event. But for regular season, it's not something that drew people."

The Westerly Hotel's food and beverage manager David Branigan is new to his position and to the Valley, in the same period the hockey season would have started.

Which makes it challenging to compare historical sales.

"It's impossible for me to gauge on the draw power from last year," said Branigan, noting business inevitably increases when the Canucks are playing.

"I think anybody that's in the pub business in B.C. is missing that energy. It's part of being Canadian and part of the pub business."

When Branigan managed the Shark Club in Victoria, he said the Canucks were far and away the No. 1 draw.

"They are a key component of the pub business," he said. "We're looking forward to some of the announcements (regarding the NHL labour dispute) this week, hopefully."

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