DALLAS -- It was supposed to have been the long-awaited day when the Dallas Mavericks received their glitzy rings for winning the NBA championship last June.
Fans were expected to crowd into area bars and restaurants in the vicinity of American Airlines Center. And parking lots were expected to be jampacked with fans trying to get a peek at Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and the rest of the Mavs' players who helped bring this city its first NBA title with a victory over the Miami Heat.
But on Tuesday, the restaurants, bars and streets near AAC looked like a virtual ghost town. And the parking lots were nearly empty.
The reason: The NBA and its players are mired in a nasty lockout that has, so far, led to the cancellation of the entire preseason and the first month of the regular season.
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Thus, businesses such as the House of Blues have been left to suffer while the NBA owners and players haggle over a few billion dollars. Less than an hour from Tuesday's scheduled tipoff between the Mavs and Chicago Bulls, there were eight employees on the House of Blues' main floor and just six customers.
"Our restaurant holds 230 people, and there's six people in there right now," said Chris Spinks, the marketing manager of House Of Blues Dallas. "Percentage wise, 95 percent of our business isn't in here right now.
"The streets would have been packed [if the lockout was resolved], the restaurant would have been packed, there would have been a lot of excitement. And instead, you see exactly how it is. There's nothing going on."
There's also nothing going on at the Havana Social Club -- a cigar and rum bar located right at Victory Plaza. It has a perfect view of the terrace where Nowitzki sang We Are The Champions after the Mavericks' championship parade in June.
The lockout has cast a dark shadow on the Havana Social Club business.
Carlos Rodriquez, the general manager of the Havana Social Club, said: "Pretty comfortable, between seating and standing, we can get 125 people in here. But right now we only have one customer here -- and it's 7:12 p.m. on the first day [of the original NBA season].
"It has been tough. Believe me. It's been really tough."
It's also been really tough for the proprietors of the Victory Tavern, which is located directly across from AAC. About the time the Mavs would have been receiving their NBA rings, there were only six customers in a place that has a capacity between 200-240 patrons.
Jose Perez, the general manager of Victory Tavern, said his facility would have been full if the NBA season would have gone on as scheduled.
"We would have had all the TVs on, the sound on for the game, and we would have had a lot of business," Perez said. "We are hoping that this kind of gets settled pretty quick."
So, too, are the folks at The Fan Sports Lounge, a swanky establishment that opened Oct. 14 and was hoping to capitalize on the Mavs' popularity.
"We were staffed for [opening day], then we had to back away from it," said Johnny Oliva, the manager of The Fan Sports Lounge. "I've been to several Mavericks games and I've seen the crowds that they bring.
"We were attempting to capture that for the beginning of the season, but we look forward to them starting this year."
Frankey Crawford, a waiter at the House Of Blues, was also looking forward to the added tips that would come when the Mavs play home games. Now, he feels short-changed.
“We’re right down the streets from the American Airlines Center,” Crawford said. “Right now, since we don’t have opening day, there’s no games, no activities, no business.
“It’s very disappointing. We were expecting a rollover from a good season from the Texas Rangers, then you have a rollover from the championship of last season. But now we can’t.”
Thus, local businesses, vendors and people who depend on the Mavs for their main or second job, must wait until the lockout reaches a conclusion. And when that’ll happen is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, there’s plenty of places around the AAC. And anyone who ventures into one of the numerous bars and restaurants can get waited on immediately.
“The lockout is really hurting us big-time,” Rodriquez said. “Definitely the whole area, and I would say the whole city, is basically suffering.
“When the Mavericks play we have really good large crowd before and after the game. Basically this location is totally dependent on games and on what’s going on in the American Airlines Center.”
The businesses around the AAC just hope the NBA owners and players keep them in mind when they’re at the negotiating table.
“I doubt that crosses their mind, but you never know,” said Oliva, who will have his star-studded grand opening on Nov. 9. “Hopefully they would.
“I know that they’re responsible for a lot of jobs in the arena, and I’m pretty sure that crosses their minds as well. There’s a lot of people out of work right now in the arena who are not working as much as they should, and this puts a huge damper on what our goals were for the rest of the year.”
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760