NBA lockout hitting some cities hard

By Tom Withers

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 6 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

In this photo taken Oct. 5, 2011, Caitlin Cassidy, manager of Harry Buffalo, sits at a table with the Quicken Loans Arena, where the NBA basketball team Cleveland Cavaliers play, in the background, in Cleveland. The league's cancellation of the preseason and the likelihood that regular-season games will soon be wiped out is causing collateral economic damage in cities around the league. The loss of games will mean the loss of jobs for waitresses, bartenders, hotel workers and others who count on pro basketball's six-month season for employment.

Tony Dejak, Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Across the street from Quicken Loans Arena, a building that rocks and rolls from November until April as home to the Cavaliers, reality is posted on a wall.

Harry Buffalo is one of the downtown restaurants in Cleveland that counts heavily on the beer-drinking, burger-devouring NBA crowd to keep its doors open. Operations manager John Adams has taped an internet report outside the kitchen for his waitresses, bartenders and cooks to read.

With yellow highlighter, he's shaded the grim news of the NBA labor impasse for his employees, some of whom may soon lose their jobs if there's no deal.

This is where the lockout hits home, and hits hardest.

"It's rough," Adams said, glancing toward The Q. "I've got three single moms on my wait staff and two single dads in the kitchen. I've got their 11 children to think about. It's painful when it's out of my control, when I have to put the business first and say I can't have 15 servers on staff because we don't have the business."

This week, the NBA canceled its preseason. On Monday, Commissioner David Stern may wipe out the first two weeks of the regular season if his millionaire players and even wealthier owners can't agree on how to split revenue and cap salaries.

Sure, players are temporarily out of work and will have to find ways to maintain their skills. But Kobe Bryant has the luxury of potentially signing with an Italian team to do that, earning a big salary until the labor unrest settles.

Others aren't as fortunate.

The loss of one game, let alone 10 or maybe all 82, will have a devastating impact on workers with jobs dependent on pro basketball's six-month-plus season. A few teams have already trimmed their staffs and more layoffs could be forthcoming if the discussions drag on. Then there are those who don't work directly for an NBA team but who still depend on the excitement the league brings to town.

Ushers, security personnel, parking lot attendants, concession workers, restaurant employees and others all stand to have their hours cut or join the country's 14 million unemployed.

"Yeah, financially, I'm worried," said waitress Jeannette Lauersdorf, a single mother of two, who on a quiet Wednesday afternoon is serving six guests at three tables inside Harry Buffalo. On a night the Cavs are playing, the place has a 30-minute wait for a table. "We've got bills to pay."

Nerves, already frayed in a depressed economy, are unraveling.

As it was during the NFL's labor dispute, certain cities around the league will bear more of a burden than others until the NBA gets bouncing again. Markets like Orlando, Memphis, Salt Lake City and Portland, with no other income being generated by a major professional sports franchise, could be facing a long winter.

At this point, there's no telling how long the lockout will last, but NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver projected losses if the season's opening two weeks are canceled in "the millions of dollars."

"We've spent a lot of time with our teams walking through those scenarios of lost games," Silver said. "The damage is enormous, will be enormous."

While Cleveland may be undergoing a minor renaissance with new construction, including a downtown casino being built by a group headed by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, unemployment remains high. There's a thriving one-block strip of East Fourth Street, where upscale eateries lure guests no matter the time of year.

But closer to the Q, some bars and restaurants are still recovering from the financial aftershock caused by superstar LeBron James leaving.

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