Lakers early exit could cost Los Angeles economy $70 million

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I have a buddy who owns a pub in the greater Los Angeles area. How did a then bartender get the seed money to start his own place? He worked every Lakers playoff game during one of the 1980s Showtime runs, when the place would fill up, and he set that money aside. It went a long way.

The Lakers are big money in Los Angeles. They are the far and away the biggest sports brand in this city (and if the NFL ever bothers to return it will start at number two and have to earn its way up).

So the numbers in a Los Angeles Times story today don’t really shock me.

The Lakers are a huge draw for merchants and won’t be easy to replace, said economist Esmael Adibi of Chapman University, who estimated that local businesses would lose at least $60 million to $70 million because of the team’s early exit.

“When you take the crowd that would go to the Staples Center itself and all the activities that take place, it is a large sum of money,” he said. “Every sporting event has some economic impact, and unfortunately there is no substitution.”

AEG — a sports business giant that owns Staples Center and a share of the Lakers — is also the primary investor in L.A. Live, the retail entertainment complex next to Staples that includes a variety of bars and restaurants (as well as the West Coast ESPN headquarters). On Lakers game nights that place is buzzing, alive with people and energy before, during and after games. The Lakers loss hits them in the bottom line.

Over at Trader Vic’s in downtown’s L.A. Live on Tuesday — when the Lakers would have played Game 5 against the Dallas Mavericks at neighboring Staples Center — just nine people were seated in the lounge of the tropical-themed restaurant, and a party of 10 was finishing up in the back dining room. Typically, there’s at least a two-hour wait for a table on game nights, owner John Valencia said.

“As a fan, I’m extremely disappointed, but as an owner, it’s pretty devastating for business,” he said. “We’re event-driven, and when you have a Laker game on standby and it doesn’t happen, it’s very difficult to backfill.”