Coronavirus sparks disruption for local sports, restaurants, entertainment sectors

View of court from the Panorama Club

Last updated on March 12th, 2020 at 04:42 pm

The impact of the coronavirus outbreak widened its reach Wednesday night when the National Basketball Association announced it would suspend its season until further notice.

The six home games remaining for the Milwaukee Bucks’ regular season are all postponed, which means Fiserv Forum is in for some empty days over the next couple of weeks.

That’s bad news for downtown bars and restaurant that thrive off the arena’s business.

“It’s going to hurt our industry quite a bit,” said local restaurant industry mogul Omar Shaikh.

Carnevor, the upscale steakhouse Shaikh co-owns at 718 N. Milwaukee St., is a hot spot for both fans and players and typically draws a crowd both before and after Bucks games.  Business was steady in February and so far this month, but things took a turn after the NBA’s announcement, he said.

As of Thursday morning, three separate parties had canceled reservations– one for 25 people and one for 6 people– because they are no longer traveling into downtown Milwaukee for Bucks games this weekend, said Shaikh.

“Just with people not coming downtown in general, it hurts a lot of sectors,” he said.

For now, Carnevor and Surge Restaurant Group’s other downtown concepts will continue to operate and staff up as usual but if the outbreak’s impact is long lasting, “it’s not going to be sustainable,” Shaikh said.

The Bucks declined to disclose the estimated economic impact of each Bucks home game at Fiserv Forum, however VISIT Milwaukee estimated that each NBA playoff game the team hosted in Milwaukee last year brought about $3 million to area businesses. 

Down the street at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, the Milwaukee Admirals are headed for similar changes to its 2020 season schedule.

The team’s president Jon Greenberg said Thursday morning that no decisions had been made, but the American Hockey League would follow protocol similar to that of the National Hockey League. Hours later, the NHL announced it will pause the season beginning with tonight’s games.

As of Wednesday night, the Admirals had intended to play its two regularly scheduled home games this weekend in front of fans.

Greenberg expects the AHL to make an official announcement mid-afternoon on Thursday.

From a business perspective, the coronavirus crisis is a huge headache for a minor league franchise that depends on revenue generated by each home game.

“It’s a six-figure impact for us to lose games,” said Greenberg. “For a game like tomorrow, where we would have had a full house and a post-game concert, we’re talking about a quarter of a million dollars that is going to be lost just from that. And that’s just for us, not even the multiplier of all the people going to bars and restaurants beforehand.”

Major League Baseball also announced Thursday afternoon that all operations, including spring training, are suspended due to the coronavirus. The Brewers’ opening day was scheduled for March 26. MLB said it will delay the start of the regular season by at least two weeks.

So far, the following major Milwaukee-area concerts have been postposed:

  • Kenny Chesney, originally booked for April 25 at Miller Park, rescheduled date TBD
  • Michael Buble, originally booked for March 29 show at Fiserv Forum, rescheduled date TBD
  • Dan + Shay, originally booked for April 11 at Fiserv Forum, rescheduled for Aug. 28
  • Blake Shelton, originally booked for March 20, rescheduled for spring 2021

This story is developing. Check back often for updates. 

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer covers restaurants, retail, tourism, and sports and entertainment. She joined BizTimes in 2015, previously as an intern reporter. She earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University in 2017. When she's not on the job, Maredithe coaches field hockey and loves exploring her favorite city on earth, Milwaukee.

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