MIDTOWN — The NBA lockout has left Knicks fans in the lurch, with no Amar'e Stoudemire or Carmelo Anthony to root for.
Local business owners and season ticket-holders have felt the loss of the basketball season as well, and launched a full-court press Wednesday to get NBA players and owners back to work in order to save local bars and restaurants, which have seen their sales plunge during what is supposed to be their peak season.
“Business is just down major, major.... They're all hurting,” said Paul Hurley, president of the United Restaurant and Tavern Owners Association, at a press conference in front of Madison Square Garden protesting the five-month basketball lockout.
Hurley said his members have been reeling across the city, with game-day sales down between 30 and 40 percent.
The situation is especially bad for businesses around Madison Square Garden, which had been counting down the minutes for the arena to reopen after an extensive renovation.
“They were getting excited that it was open again, and then there’s a lockout! My feeling is, it’s a disgrace," he said.
To pressure the NBA back onto the court, the group, led by State Sen. Malcolm Smith, began collecting one million signatures Wednesday, as part of a nation-wide campaign.
Taking a page from Occupy Wall Street’s playbook, the group has identified Dec. 11 as a nation-wide “Day of Solidarity,” where they plan to protest in front of stadiums and local bars and eateries to show their discontent.
“I think they’re playing a game. This is not a game. This is people’s lives,” said Smith, who said restaurants nationwide have lost an estimated $1 million-per-day since the strike began.
To up the pressure, some season ticket-holders, including Matrin Silver, the president of Georgi Vodka, also demanded that they be fully reimbursed for their tickets in one lump sum — plus interest — unless the games resume by Dec. 11.
“It’s hard economic times out there,” said Silver, a ticket-holder for the past 17 years, who said that fans like him have better ways to spend their money as the holidays begin.
Paddy McCarthy, the owner of Navada Smiths, said he hoped the standoff would finally come to a resolution soon.
“It’s really killing my business,” he said, estimating his sales had dropped at least 40 to 50 percent since the strike. “I think it’s ridiculous, especially the way the economy is…. Everyone’s losing out across the board.”