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Bars, restaurants boosted by Edmonton Oilers playoff run

While the Edmonton Oilers are seeing success on the ice, that is also translating to a boost to the bottom line for bars and restaurants across the entire city.

The Edmonton Downtown Business Association estimates around 40,000 fans are heading in the city’s core each Oilers game night.

At Rogers Place and the surrounding watch parties in the Ice District and fan park, the DBA believes around 30,000 people gather for the game.

“I think in the early days there was some nervousness from a lot of the bars and smaller venues downtown that the fan park was going suck up all the fans and there wouldn’t be anyone watching the game in their bars,” said Puneeta McBryan, the CEO at the Edmonton Downtown Business Association.

“But that has pretty quickly shown to be not the case at all.”

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She said the DBA estimates another 10,000 fans are taking in the game from pubs, bars and restaurants elsewhere across downtown if they can’t get into the watch parties at the Ice District, which she said has capacity for about 12,000 people between the Moss Pit and fan park.

“There’s lots of people that prefer to just still be in a pub anyway,” McBryan said, adding popular spots like Kelly’s Pub, Sherlock Holmes, Craft Beer Market are consistently packed on game nights. “Because it’s nice to be inside and have that environment.”

Click to play video: 'Meet Mama Stanley, the passionate Edmonton Oilers fan'

Meet Mama Stanley, the passionate Edmonton Oilers fan

McBryan said it isn’t just the usual spots that are busy — all sorts of venues are loyal to the Oil.

“You would be shocked at how many places that you would never expect have TVs, have big projection screens down, sound on for the game and drink specials like Baijiu, which is behind me, you can watch the game on their patio, which is a very cool experience,” she said, gesturing to the cocktail bar on 104th Street, just steps from the hockey arena.

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Those nightly numbers add up to more than 600,000 visits over the course of the first 16 games of the playoffs.

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“It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting on a patio or in a bar even — you can hear and feel the energy wherever you are downtown. It’s really exciting.”

Click to play video: 'Businesses outside of downtown Edmonton not feeling playoff boost'

Businesses outside of downtown Edmonton not feeling playoff boost

On Friday, local businesses were getting ready for game night. While some businesses are seeing an increase in customers, others say belt-tightening in recent years has cut into profits.

“We get, probably, about a 15 to 20 per cent bump on game days. Unfortunately, the kind of opposite of that is when you don’t have a game day,” said Wayne Jones, the co-owner of Rocky Mountain Icehouse on Jasper Avenue.

He said business on non-game days is slower, which he attributed to people not going out as much or relaxing and recovering from the previous hockey night.

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“So our off days are probably a little bit slower than they were. So maybe it evens out over the course of the week.”

The earlier start times during this round of the playoffs have been a positive, Jones said, especially on weekdays, compared to when the games were starting at 8 p.m. or later.

“People tended to maybe not go out as much, but now that the games are starting 6 or 6:30 p.m., it seems to be a little bit better. They’ll come out after and have a bite to eat, have a few drinks.”

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Vance Bosch, operating partner at Central Social Hall on Jasper Avenue, said the boost in business has been a much-needed positive, especially as many bars and restaurants continue to make up for the losses experienced during the pandemic and ensuing inflationary pressures.

“Everyone all of a sudden is an Oilers fan every time we move on to another round. So it’s great,” Bosch said. “It’s been really important after such a rough four years in COVID.”

He said it isn’t just during the games — there has consistently been a pre-puck drop dinner rush and fans coming in for post-game drinks.

“Home games especially, we’re seeing a huge pre-game rush, you know, two hours before we’ll be full in here, and then it’ll completely flip, be full for the game again, completely flip, and then maybe half full afterwards on a weeknight.

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“But then a Friday or Saturday game — we’re just literally lined up out the door. It’s wild. It’s awesome.”

Click to play video: 'Ice District regulars: Meet the stars of the Edmonton Oilers watch party'

Ice District regulars: Meet the stars of the Edmonton Oilers watch party

While data for this year isn’t yet available, the DBA said 2023’s even shorter playoff run was a big win for hospitality — and not just in the city’s core.

From neighbourhood pubs to sports bar chains with locations in the suburbs and beyond, a boost was seen across the Edmonton region.

“The data we have from last year showed anywhere from a 50 per cent spike to a 120 per cent spike at venues not even just downtown, across the city on on game nights the compared to non-game nights,” McBryan said.

“I would imagine, easily, it’s doubling revenue every single night downtown that it’s a game night and I’m sure in bars, you know, Boston Pizzas and clubs all across the city are probably feeling the same.”

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The Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars are tied 2-2- in the Western Conference final.

They face off for Game 5 on Friday night in Texas. Game 6 will be back in Edmonton on Sunday. Game 7, if necessary, would be Tuesday back in Dallas.

Of note, the downtown watch party experience will look a little different moving forward.

While the Edmonton Oilers fan park is staying open, the big white tent erected during the first round of the playoffs is in the process of being taken down for other previously scheduled events, such the first annual Ice District Carnival taking place from June 6 to 9.

West Coast Amusements will be setting up 25 midway rides on the site. Admission is free and $35 ride all day passes went on sale this week.

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