Thursday, November 29, 2007

Broadway Strike Hits Theater District Hard

Gay-owned and oriented businesses remain part of the broader community impacted by the Broadway strike as my article in EDGE examines today. Local 1 and the League of American Theatres and Producers reached a settlement to turn on the lights once again on Broadway late last night. But the economic impact remains staggering. A collective sign of relief can undoubtedly be heard today not only in the Theater District but across the city.

With the nearly three-week Broadway strike over, theaters and businesses - restaurants and bars in the Theater District and Hell’s Kitchen - remain all too eager for the curtains to go up once again. But the walkout’s economic toll remains staggering.

Tom Viola, executive director of Broadway Cares, told EDGE in an interview hours before Local 1 and the League of American Theatres and Producers announced their settlement that ended the strike, said it had a direct impact on recent fundraising efforts. Theaters traditionally appeal for money during a six-week fundraising blitz each fall. Viola estimated Broadway Cares alone lost an estimated $300,000 and $350,000 in donations each week during the strike.

"That’s huge," he said. "It will have a direct effect on our ability to make grants after the first of the year. The strike on Broadway will be felt across the country: In a food bank in Pittsburgh, at an LGBT center on West 13th Street, at a health clinic in San Francisco."

Broadway Cares has turned to the Internet to attempt to fill this fundraising gap. And it’s 19th annual Gypsy of the Year competition, which generates more than 20 percent of the organization’s annual budget, to Dec. 17-18. But Viola was quick to stress, however, Broadway Cares is one of many organizations and businesses the strike has hit hard.

"The strike has been very difficult for the entire neighborhood," he said. "Everybody has taken a huge hit over the 20 days of this strike. We are a part of an entire community affected by the strike."

Robert Guarino, general manager of Marseille on Ninth Avenue and West 44th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, agreed. He told EDGE that business at the French and Moroccan bistro is noticeably lower because of the strike. Guarino added Restaurant Row (West 46th Street) and other restaurants along bustling Ninth Avenue have experienced a similar decline in business.

"It’s frustrating to not be as busy as we’re used to being this time of year," he said. "It’s sad for the restaurants and for the theaters."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYC & Company and the Times Square Alliance announced a week-long dining discount program, which began on Nov. 17, to lure diners back into the Theater District’s restaurants. The city lost an estimated $2 million a day in revenue during the strike. But local bars say it had little impact on their bottom line.

Vlada Lounge bartender Damon Gravina said he noticed more locals and an earlier crowd at the popular West 51st Street bar during the strike. He added, however, this patronage change is not uncommon during the busy holiday season.

"I don’t think we’ve been as deeply affected as the restaurants have," Guarina said.

Socrates Diamant, manager of Barrage on West 47th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, agreed.

"It really hasn’t made much of a difference to us," he said. "We do get people to and from shows but it’s not a huge portion of our business."

Diamant was among those in the neighborhood who eagerly awaited a settlement.

"Everybody has taken a hit here in more than two weeks of lost income," Viola added. "It really comes down to thousands of individuals who have been affected by it."

No comments: