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Knicks Fans Flooding Bars for 'Lin-Sanity' Amid Ongoing Cable Spat

By DNAinfo Staff on February 17, 2012 7:17am

Miriam Lau, 25 (c) with friends watch Jeremy Lin and the Knicks play the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 15, 2012 at Stout on W. 33rd St.
Miriam Lau, 25 (c) with friends watch Jeremy Lin and the Knicks play the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 15, 2012 at Stout on W. 33rd St.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

By Trevor Kapp and Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo Staff

MANHATTAN — Basketball fans aren’t the only ones basking in the red-hot play of Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin.

The hoops sensation’s meteoric rise — coupled with the ongoing spat between Time Warner Cable and the MSG Network that has kept subscribers from watching games at home — is giving a boon to Big Apple bars packing in remote-control refugees during the Knicks’s winning streak.

“We never got basketball fans before,” said Steph Cassidy, a bartender at Kelly’s Sports Bar on Avenue A in the East Village, noting she fielded multiple phone calls Wednesday from fans wondering if the pub would be broadcasting the Knicks game that night.

“We’re a hockey bar, sometimes a football bar, but never a basketball bar.”

Cassidy said the otherwise low-key watering hole has seen its barstools filled on game nights since Lin and the Knicks began their seven game winning streak earlier this month.

“Everyone is talking about Lin,” the 25-year-old Brooklyn resident added. “I know we’ve definitely gotten an increase in customers from it.”

At the Gin Mill on the Upper West Side, which boasts 28 large-screen televisions, staff said the hysteria over Lin and the Knicks — coupled with the Time Warner blackout —  has brought the fans in in droves.

MSG and Time Warner are stuck in a nearly six week dispute over rights.

“Being behind the bar, we definitely see a big increase in the amount of people who are coming to the bar to watch the Knicks, as to who had previously come,” said Eric Starr, 40, who’s worked at the popular Amsterdam Avenue tavern for the past decade.

He explained that the Gin Mill’s sister bar next door was “significantly” slower during Wednesday night’s game, even though both do about equal business on weeknights.

“Some people are coming because of [the blackout], and people are also coming because they want to go to a bar with their friends and watch the game,” Starr added. “Its good — let’s keep the blackout going.”

On the other hand, bars lacking satellite television or special NBA subscription packages have seen would-be patrons simply walk out upon discovering the Knicks games aren’t being broadcast.

“We don’t have MSG anymore because of the blackout, so we’re actually losing business,” said Donal McGeown, 27, a bartender at O’Lunney’s Pub on West 45th Street in Times Square, noting that large corporate parties have decided to drink elsewhere when learning the news.

“We get people coming in every night asking us if the Knicks are playing," he added. "We have to send them up the road.”

While the blackout has given fans the chance to cheer en masse at some watering holes, it’s also forced them to fork over cash they otherwise wouldn't have spent by watching from their couches.

Robin Reyes, 35, an information technology specialist from the West Village, said he’s been spending about $75 a night at bars when the Knicks play.

“It’s hitting the wallet hard,” said Reyes, while sipping on a beer at Stout on West 33rd Street as the Knicks played the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night. “As long as Lin keeps winning games, I’m going to watch. It’s not cheap, but it’s must-watch TV.”

Ed Yu, 29, a courier from Little Italy, has also only been able to see the Knicks a handful of times this year because of the blackout.

“It stinks,” Yu said while standing outside the Nom Wah Tea Parlor in Chinatown, where he was lining up for a viewing party. “On a scale of one to 10, my frustration is a 10. Give the fans what they want.”

Lifelong Knicks fan Chris Walsh said he’s watched the Knicks religiously through the years — but now has to do it from a barstool because of the blackout.

“It’s a pain,” said Walsh, 25, a doorman from the Upper East Side. “Now we finally have a good team, and I can’t watch unless it’s on TNT or ESPN.”

Time Warner and MSG have been engaged in a nearly six-week dispute over rights and money that has affected about 1.3 million subscribers.

Time Warner claims MSG is asking for unreasonable amounts of money for it to carry the network, while MSG says the cable provider is refusing to pay the price it’s worth.

“We’ve always asked for a fair deal, and that’s not changed,” said Dan Ronayne, general manger of MSG Network. “The way for it to end is if Time Warner comes to the table with a deal that is fair and places a value on our content.”

A representative from Time Warner did not return a request for comment.