By Kyle Kipp
“We’ve already seen a swing in customers,” said Megan Bishop, general manager of St. Louis Bar and Grill, referring to the flood of football fans the restaurant has seen in response to its shift in marketing strategies since the start of the NHL lockout.
Located on Elgin Street near the downtown core, the wings and ribs spot introduced several contests and menu deals in hopes of recovering the sales and crowd sizes that disappeared with the start of the professional hockey season.
“We planned for the worst,” she said.
Despite the efforts that are in place to lock in the new customer base, she admits the venue still “misses hockey.”
The same can be said for restaurants such as Broadway Bar & Grill in Kanata, which was forced to cut costs and settle for hosting less profitable events.
“It definitely affects us,” said John Sterling, owner of the west-end Broadway location. “It affected us in the 2004-05 lockout, too.”
The sports bar regularly set up a shuttle bus to and from Scotiabank Place whenever the Senators were in town. That meant large crowds would congregate at the facility before, during and after home games.
Mr. Sterling also considered showing ultimate fighting matches to bring more patrons through his door, but said the more than $1,000 it costs to broadcast the event makes it hard to make the numbers work.
“I did the math. Generally, unless it’s a big (Georges) St-Pierre fight, we just can’t make it work.”
To reduce costs, Mr. Sterling said he cut his staff’s hours and, along with his business partner, is spending more time working at the venue himself.
But he’s also experimenting with Thursday night karaoke, as well as live bands on the weekends. He’s also tried tapping into other professional sports, with mixed results.
“We’ve got football specials, which we’ve tried doing in the past, but unfortunately, Ottawa’s just not that big of a football town. There’s only so much football you can play, whereas hockey, there’s something going on seven days a week.”