Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to the Small Business Administration urging officials there to reach out to Buffalo businesses in need of assistance. Now in its 11th week, the lockout may push some businesses that count on gameday receipts to the brink of extinction, she said.
"The Buffalo Sabres are a vital part of the economic life of downtown Buffalo, and the lockout has been absolutely devastating for local businesses," she said. "Local small business owners rely tremendously on the revenues generated from Sabres fans to keep their establishments operating, and it is imperative for them to have knowledge of the resources available to assist them through this difficult time."
The lack of hockey has hurt the local economies of every city with a franchise, but smaller cities such as Buffalo feel the pinch more acutely. The New York State Comptroller's Office estimates the Sabres contribute $65 million to the Western New York economy each year through taxes, concessions, advertising and spin-off business. Some area businesses say upwards of a quarter of their total fall and winter sales come as the result of Sabres games, while the Buffalo Convention and Visitor's Bureau said a good number of the 14 million visitors to Buffalo come thanks to the Sabres.
Officials with the tourism group Visit Buffalo Niagara estimate $2 million just in hotel revenue has been lost since the lockout started Sept. 15. That's compounded, they say, by additional spending visitors – particularly Canadians – do in Western New York.
"The loss of hockey has a real economic impact," said Visit Buffalo Niagara President Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, "the loss of hotel room nights bought by visiting teams and their fans as well as the loss of restaurant and bar revenue to downtown businesses."
Gillibrand wants SBA leaders to educate Buffalo businessmen about programs the SBA offers, including a micro-loan program, technical assistance and long-term guidance. She wants the SBA to host workshops on how to endure through the hardships created by the lockout.
The full text of Gillibrand's letter is below:
"I write to you today to bring your attention to struggling small business owners in downtown Buffalo. As you may know, the City of Buffalo is home to a National Hockey League team, the Buffalo Sabres. Unfortunately, the National Hockey League season has been shortened due to an ongoing dispute between the players’ union and team owners, and may be cancelled altogether if an agreement cannot be reached. The effect of the lockout on Buffalo’s downtown economy has been devastating, as hundreds of businesses and their employees rely heavily upon revenue generated from Sabres game attendees. These operations range from restaurants and nightclubs to merchandisers and transportation companies.
"As business owners continue to face the uncertainty of their future due to a situation entirely out of their control, I ask that the Small Business Administration work with my office in engaging affected business owners to address their loss, and to make them aware of any business-relief programs that may be available to them. In particular, I urge you to consider hosting a workshop on available assistance for small business owners during challenging situations such as this, possibly in coordination with New York State’s Empire State Development, the Small Business Development Center network and other relevant resources.
"I look forward to working with you on this request."
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