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B.C. businesses brace for boom as Vancouver Canucks gear up for playoffs

NHL playoffs bring hope to Vancouver's hospitality industry as Canucks face Nashville Predators on Sunday

The Vancouver Canucks’ first home playoff game in nine years is great news not only for B.C. hockey fans but West Coast businesses, too.

The Canucks face off against the Nashville Predators at Rogers Arena on Sunday. This kicks off the first of at least four Stanley Cup playoff games – two in Vancouver – that are expected to bring a boost to local pubs, restaurants, shops and hotels.

“It's a hugely exciting opportunity for the hospitality industry. The deeper the Canucks go in the playoffs, the more opportunities there are for us to have guests come in,” said Jeff Guignard, executive director of BC's Alliance of Beverage Licensees.

He said about 62 per cent of businesses in the hospitality industry across B.C. are not profitable, so any uptake in businesses will be very helpful.

“We're finding that customers are dealing with affordability issues and high inflation, so they're not coming out as much, but something like this will get them out,” said Guignard.

“It's going to have a really broad impact across the whole … industry because that's where people are going to go, especially sports bars, to watch the game with their friends, and the pubs, bars and places that are close to the arena. That’s going to be a lot of fun.”

While the Canucks made the playoffs in the abbreviated 2020 pandemic season, those games were all played in Edmonton to mitigate COVID-19 risks.

The BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA) did a study during the Canucks’ 2015 playoffs – the last to be played in Vancouver – which found food and beverage sales spiked every time the team scored or if they won.

“Any places near downtown, you're going to see … a couple hundred per cent increase in sales. And if you get further away from the arena, you still get that effect with 75-100 per cent increase in sales in bars and restaurants because of the euphoria, the excitement,” said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BCRFA.

He said the biggest change since the 2015 playoffs is that food delivery wasn't as big a decade ago as it is now.

“So now we can capture a market that if people don't feel like going out, they order in and the added bonus is that they can actually order some alcohol with their food as well,” Tostenson said.

During the second round of the 2022 NHL playoffs in Edmonton, the local restaurant industry near the Oilers’ arena saw a 233 per cent increase in spend, while the City of Edmonton saw a 71 per cent increase in spend over non-game days, according to data from financial institution Moneris Financial Corp.

Their statistics also show that during the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals in Montreal, spending increased by 245 per cent in the city and by 137 per cent across Quebec on a game night.

Local pubs and shops have stocked up to get ready for a boost in customer demand during the games. Some merch stores have already seen their sales going up leading up to the playoffs.

“The [Canucks] team has been good for the first time in a long time. There have been more jerseys and more merchandise sold for Canucks, and it's not just from tourists but fans and bandwagoners. So it's been good for our business,” said Joshua Rey, a sales associate at Granville Sports Corner.

“We've stocked up on some more hats and T-shirts – many are already being sold quickly, got a few more jerseys, and brought out the car flags as well.”

Some restaurants and pubs have launched marketing campaigns around the upcoming playoffs and will be offering promotions and special programs during the time. This includes This Is Blueprint Management Ltd., which operates bars and clubs throughout Metro Vancouver.

“We will be running drinks, specials and raffle prizes at all locations,” said Declan Riley, marketing manager of This is Blueprint.

At its Good Co. pub Granville location, the company will try to create a game-day environment by having a DJ and a singer come in and perform the anthem, as they do in the arena, according to Riley.

“If this goes well and it goes long, it's something that we can be a part of history as people will potentially think back when they were watching this team 10 years down the road,” he said.

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