Brock Carbery

Brock Carbery

What HST? While playoffs last, bar and restaurant business booms

During tough times for Victoria bars and restaurants, the NHL playoffs have been manna from heaven.

In the months after the implementation of the harmonized sales tax on July 1, 2010, followed by beefed-up penalties for drinking and driving two months later, many bars and restaurants complained about a nosedive in sales and resultant staff layoffs.

But with the Vancouver Canucks solidly in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, customers seem to have forgotten all about the pesky HST.

“It was insane,” Shark Club’s banquet and catering manager Jeannine Dyke said of Vancouver’s Game 7 victory over Chicago on Wednesday, April 13. The bar was packed and sales were strong, Dyke said.

The scene was similar at Podium Sports Grill. Owner Mike Joss said the bar was already full an hour before the puck dropped. His normal sales on a Wednesday are $3,500-$4,000, but Podium raked in more than double that on the night Vancouver eliminated the Blackhawks.

“If the Canucks got eliminated after Round 1, it would have cost us $25,000 a week in sales,” Joss estimated.

Dyke said, “We’re doing very well from the playoffs.” Both sports bars said playoffs are their busiest time of year.

Meanwhile, at Christie’s, staffing levels are padded for nearly every game of the playoffs. General manager Brock Carbery said one or two extra bartenders, hostesses or servers need to be added to the roster on game nights.

The playoff buzz seems to have helped customers forget about the disincentives for dining out. “A certain amount of it has so far, and it certainly will now that they’re in the second round,” Carbery said about B.C.’s NHL team. “Overall, yes, they’re helping. It creates such a buzz and a great atmosphere.”

Over at the Podium, Joss noted that his industry has a lot riding on the annual quest for the cup.

“April, May, June – those are the busiest months of our year, especially with the Vancouver Canucks. There’s fans out there for every team, but the Canucks are certainly the engine that drives this bus.”

Vancouver and Nashville are tied at one win apiece in the seven-game quarterfinal series. The teams are back on pub TV screens Tuesday night.

ecardone@vicnews.com