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Blue Jackets Lockout Might Affect Arena District Businesses

It’s been a little more than a week since National Hockey League owners locked out players over revenue sharing and salary caps, among other things. The lockout includes Columbus Blue Jackets players – who won’t be paid for missed games. The dispute might mean some economic hard times for others -- especially for businesses in the Arena District. By any account the Arena District is a young and vibrant part of downtown Columbus. And it’s attracting a young group of entrepreneurs. Michael Darr is one of those people. He’s co-owner of two bars just steps away from the Blue Jackets’ home ice. “We like the district,â€? Darr says. “We like the growth that we see with the new Huntington Park, the new Hilton, the convention center. There’s plenty of items going on – a lot of business; a lot of growth. So with hockey and also the amount of potential customers in the area we thought it was a strong move.â€? George Choposky is another owner who puts it this way: “It’s beautiful down here,â€? Choposky says. “It’s a vibrant place that people should come. It’s a fun place to be. There’s a lot of good restaurants, there’s a lot of things happening down here.â€? But what does the indefinite termination of Blue Jackets games mean for the district? Michael Darr’s “Râ€? Bar is a magnet for all sorts of hockey fans. Darr is afraid his business will be drastically hurt. “It’s a major loss of sales,â€? Darr says. “We’re not sure but we know it’s at least a third – minimal – of our sales; could be more, especially with the All Star Game possibly being gone also. We also aren’t hiring like we usually would; it’s status quo right now on staff. So it’s an impact to everyone.â€? But George Choposky, the owner of Rodizio Grill has a different take. He thinks the Arena District has grown to the extent that it can survive the loss of a few games. “I didn’t decide to build a restaurant in the Arena District solely based on the Blue Jackets,â€? Choposky says. “It's not good business to do that. I think that the area can sustain itself, I really do.â€? Tyrone Jackson is another young entrepreneur who co-owns The Good Frank which in part sells premium hot dogs from carts on downtown Columbus sidewalks. The NHL lockout does mean a shift in foot traffic, he says, which might mean his business will be affected. But, like George Choposky, he believes the Arena District will survive. “It does affect the foot traffic pattern but I believe that the core of downtown – especially the Arena District – is strong enough to sustain foot traffic, even though it is nice to see a peak every Wednesday night or so,â€? Jackson says. “But the core attractions, with restaurants, with concerts, will help to keep traffic good enough for people like me to survive.â€? That’s not to say that Choposky and Jackson can ride out an extended lockout and remain unaffected. Rodizio Grill’s Choposky says that from his perspective as a hockey fan and as a business owner he’d like to see the Blue Jackets back on the ice as soon as possible. “Get it done boys! Let’s get to playing hockey,â€? Choposky says. Let’s have fun and let’s bring more people into the area.â€?