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Prentice Davis, a sales representative at Clark Street Sports, says the business has relied heavily on sales of Blackhawks apparel since the NBA lockout started.

Chicago businesses are left out in the cold by NBA lockout

by John Solymossy
Nov 15, 2011

It’s looking to be a long cold winter for Chicago businesses that depend on revenue from the thousands of fans that support the Chicago Bulls.

The National Basketball Players Association rejected the latest labor agreement from the league’s owners Monday and is preparing to disband and file an antitrust lawsuit against the league. Although this may not have a dramatic effect on the Chicago economy as a whole, it definitely hurts a subset of Chicago’s sports entertainment-related businesses.

“It’s like a punch in the stomach and it has really hurt our business,” said Prentice Davis, a sales representative at the Clark Street Sports apparel store located across from the United Center.

Davis said he has noticed a dramatic decrease in sales, especially for Bulls apparel.

“Last year we sold a lot of [Derrick] Rose and [Joakim] Noah jerseys, but now they just sit on the shelf,” Davis said.

Making the best of the situation, Clark Street Sports has leaned heavily on revenue from Hawks fans in the absence of Bulls fan frequenting the store.

“Our business is split in half between Bulls and Hawks fans and without the [Bulls] 50 percent, it sucks for business.”

Many other businesses in the West Loop neighborhood have also seen dramatic decreases in sales.

“Looking at our numbers from October, from just those preseason games, we saw a decrease in our gross sales,” said Dave Neuhauser, the owner of The Crossroad Bar & Grill at 1120 W. Madison St. “Every business in this area is upset and a lot of the restaurants are preparing for a downfall [in sales] and reducing staff.”

Tammy Brown, a contractor who works for the At Your Service security detail at the United Center has been left without work due to the lockout.

“It has been very depressing,” Brown said. “It was a privilege to get this job and I really depend on having a regular paycheck. Without it, it has made my life very difficult.”

At this point the NBA has lost two weeks of regular season games and Bulls players have forfeited over $5 million in salary so far. Bulls’ players Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng are the highest paid players on the team and have each lost over a million dollars in salary.

It’s not all bad news, as one economist believes that the decrease in revenue for some Chicago companies may have a positive return for others.

“This will negatively affect some businesses in Chicago, mainly the ones located near the United Center,” said Allen Sanderson, a Chicago economist and senior lecturer at the University of Chicago.

“But, it will be positive for businesses like movie theaters and restaurants because the 20,000 people who would be spending their money at a Bulls game will spend it at other places in the city,” Sanderson added.