Bar business tapers off as All-Star weekend comes to a close

Walking into the Scotiabank Place during the All-Star skills competition and game this weekend, you could feel the energy in the air. Thousands of die-hard fans piled into the arena yelling, booing, chanting, and celebrating their favourite sport. But if you walked into a local bar during the broadcast of the grand finale — the actual All-Star game — you would stumble upon the exact opposite scenario.

During the game, bars across the city were dead.

“I’m disappointed in the turnout tonight,” said Dave McGuire, the manager of the Heart and Crown in the Byward Market. “Since the rest of the weekend was so busy, I expected more people.”

The crowd at the Heart and Crown consisted of about a dozen people. Other bars across the city had the same sized audience.

Josh Robertson is an avid hockey fan that was looking forward to going out on the town to watch the All-Star game. He made it to the bar an hour before the game to ensure he could grab a place to sit. But it was a precaution that would prove to be unnecessary.

“I expected the place to be packed,” says Robertson, who went to St. Louis Bar and Grill on Elgin Street. There were still several tables available halfway through the game.

Robertson speculates that the reason behind the sparse crowds at local bars is because of the nature of the All-Star game itself.

“It’s not a competitive game that players set out to win. It’s strictly about the entertainment,” says Robertson. “I approach it the same way. I don’t really care what side wins.”

He says that because fans don’t necessarily have to choose a side, they aren’t going to care about the outcome of the game, and won’t bother watching it outside the comfort of their own homes.

Chase Beaulieu, the manager of Pub 101 in the Byward Market, believes the quiet crowd is a result of a variety of factors.

“There are thousands already at the game,” he says. “Plus it’s scheduled at 4:00 on a Sunday, so it’s often harder for people to take out that much time in the afternoon.”

McGuire also says the crowds that were around all weekend have dispersed since the Fan Fair at the Ottawa Convention Centre closed on Saturday.

But just because bars were quiet during the game, doesn’t mean it was like that all weekend.

The Byward Market was busier than it usually is on an average weekend, thanks to all of the NHL players and television celebrities making appearances throughout the weekend, says McGuire.

There were several parties held at different bars around the Market over the four-day hockey extravaganza, which brought lots of players to the area.

“It made the entire market busier,” says Beaulieu. “The weekend was a big help for local businesses.”

For Robertson, it didn’t make a difference whether the bar where he was watching the game was packed or not. He just enjoyed watching the game.

“It’s interesting because it’s more about showing off skill, as opposed to the physical play,” says Robertson. “You get to see some really nice plays that don’t happen during regular games. It’s fun.”

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