As National Basketball Association owners and players continue their stare-down, those who make their living in and around NBA arenas can do little but sit, wait and wonder.
The NBA was to have opened its 2011-12 season Tuesday night, but the ongoing lockout wiped those games – in fact, all November games – from the schedule. League commissioner David Stern has ruled out a full, 82-game season and even an abbreviated campaign seems unlikely as the two sides remain stuck.
In Milwaukee, the Bucks were scheduled to open the season Wednesday night in San Antonio. After another road game Friday at Charlotte, they would have opened the home portion of their schedule Saturday night.
A home opener won't be happening anytime soon. As it stands, the Bucks will lose seven home dates this month. For bar owners near the Bradley Center, that means a lot of lost revenue.
"It will effect our gross revenues by about 25 percent every week," says Wally Paget, owner of Buck Bradley's, 1019 N. Old World 3rd Street. "That's a huge hit. You basically don't end up with a bottom line."
This isn't Paget's first lockout. His bar was just a few years old during the 1998-99 lockout. The lessons he learned then are again being put to use. Buck Bradley's is not as dependent on Bradley Center business as it was then.
"It was a very, very difficult time," Paget recalls. "We didn't have the revenue streams we have now like our great relationship with the Admirals, being established with business parties, rehearsal dinners and things like that. Those kind of events allow us to weather it a little bit for for newer and smaller bars, this is a very scary time for them."
The loss of weeknight games hurts the most, according to Scott Schaefer of the Milwaukee Brat House. The Brat House does fine on the weekends and he expects that to continue, whether or not the NBA plays.
But Schaefer, like most bar owners in the area, relies on the NBA to make non-traditional bar nights more profitable during the summer.
"We do fine on the weekends as it is, but it's going to be pretty empty in here during the week if they're not playing," Schaefer says.
Just across the street from the Bradley Center's northeast entrance, Centercourt Bar & Grill remains closed during the week. Owner Brian James usually opens seven nights a week during the fall and winter months, due to the increase in business during basketball season.
He also usually increases staffing once summer comes to an end, but he hasn't done that this year and, as of now, has no plans to do so in the near future so long as the NBA isn't playing.
"The NBA brings people Downtown, to the area," James says. "They'll come in before the game or after, and decide to stay around for a while. That's where I'm getting hurt."
The last NBA lockout cost teams 32 games apiece. The season resumed with a condensed, 50-game schedule just after New Year's, and though the game's return was helpful, plenty of damage had been done.
With a full 82-game season all but impossible this time around, business owners are hoping for any kind of resolution.
"Anything is better than a dark building," Padget says.
Fortunately, the Bradley Center isn't sitting completely empty. The facility still hosts the Milwaukee Admirals and Marquette Golden Eagles. But those teams can't make up for what's lost with the absence of 41 NBA dates, many of which fall on otherwise quiet, weeknights.
Their presence softens the blow, but still doesn't make up for what's lost, especially for employees who depend on game night business for their wages.
"There's no way you can replace that kind of business," James says.