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Businesses boom amid Edmonton Oilers playoff run: ‘Really great economic boost’

Having the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs isn’t just an exciting time for hockey fans, it translates to a pretty significant boom in business for restaurants and bars across the city, particularly downtown.

For the past week, the downtown core has come alive on game days, with seas of orange and blue filling the streets as fans cheer on the home team. That playoff fever has also led to a big boost in business for local establishments.

“All year we wait for the games because it’s actually the busiest time of the year,” said Arturo Martinez, owner of María Restaurant on 102nd Avenue and 103rd Street.

“We have maybe, at least, 60 per cent more sales on game days than regular days. It’s really busy.”

The restaurant, which serves northern Mexican cuisine, has been open for about three years. Martinez said when it’s not playoff time, it’s usually busy during the lunchtime rush. Now, on game days, they see lineups out the building.

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“People, families come to downtown. They come to the restaurant and they have supper or dinner before the game, they have some drinks,” Martinez said.

The restaurant plays all of the Oilers games on screens throughout the building. It alsos serve up game-day specials.

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“We make sure we have all the screens running for the games. We make sure we have a different kind of menu, something faster because it’s really busy. … When it’s the playoffs, everything is completely packed. It’s full.”

Click to play video: 'Playoff fever takes over Edmonton as Oilers gear up for Round 1'

Playoff fever takes over Edmonton as Oilers gear up for Round 1

Down the street at XO Bistro + Bar, the feeling is mutual.

“Business has been booming since playoffs started, said manager Branda Huynh. “We’ve been two to three times busier because of playoffs.”

The bistro and bar also shows the Oilers game on its TVs. It also has a DJ some nights after the games.

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“It honestly is really nice to see,” Huynh said. “It’s good to see Edmontonians coming downtown, cheering on the same team. We all love the Oilers.”

Data has shown that the Oilers being in the playoffs leads to huge benefits for local bars and restaurants. Consumer spending spikes across the city on game days.

“It’s actually not just a downtown spike,” said Puneeta McBryan, executive director of the Downtown Business Association of Edmonton. “On a playoff game night, it’s anywhere from a 25 per cent to 150 per cent spike in spending on those nights relative to non-game nights.

“As much as it’s just fun as a hockey fan, as an Oilers fan, it’s also a really, really great economic boost for Edmonton.”

McBryan said the playoff excitement, and resulting boost to the economy, as been building over the past several years with the arena now being located downtown.

“It’s this build we’ve had year over year where people now know the drill,” she said.

“Whether you have tickets to the game or not, whether it’s a home game or an away game, you converge on downtown on playoff game nights and it’s a blast.”

McBryan said the playoffs lead right into a busy summer season for the core, with patio and festival season right around the corner.

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“The coolest thing, I think, about playoffs is it’s not just this one blast of energy,” she said. “It becomes this kickoff for what’s become a really exciting summer downtown the last couple of years.”

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