It was all setting up to be a good spring for the restaurants and bars around TD Garden.
The Bruins are in first place and poised to repeat last year’s deep playoff run. The Celtics are contenders, too. There’s a full slate of concerts lined up.
The pubs and pizza joints along Causeway and Canal streets were bracing Thursday to lose their best customers — the nearly 20,000 people who fill the Garden some 200 nights a year — for weeks, at least. The abrupt postponement on Wednesday night of the NBA season, and then on Thursday afternoon the NHL’s, was perhaps not a surprise, said Nick Mitchell, the manager at McGann’s Irish Pub on Portland Street, given the rapid spread of coronavirus. But things certainly occurred fast.
“Right now, I don’t have any idea what’s going to happen,” Mitchell said Thursday, shortly after learning from a bartender that the NHL had suspended its season. “Our business is based around Garden events. That’s all up in the air.”
The Garden itself is fresh off a $100 million makeover unveiled last fall that added bars and club seating to capture more of event-goers’ spending. And all around it is the enormous new Hub on Causeway complex, with restaurants, sports bars, a food hall, and a movie theater — destinations built around the Garden’s events, and people gathering in general.
At lunchtime Thursday, there were still people in the vicinity, taking a break from work or waiting for trains at North Station. Construction crews were putting the finishing touches on parts of the Hub on Causeway complex. The marquee at the new Big Night Live concert venue still advertised a Dead Kennedys show Saturday night, and an appearance by the rapper Fabolous on Sunday.
But across the street, restaurant operators were worried. Rita Pasquale, whose family has owned Halftime Pizza for 40 years, said the new businesses have already taken away some of the older restaurants’ sales, as the lunch crowds try out new places to eat.
“And now this. It hurts,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll recover, and they’ll be back. The playoffs are big for us.”
It’s not just the Garden’s events that are going away. Many of the larger businesses around the venue are places where people go to watch a game. Tony Costa, manager of the Fours on Canal Street, was keeping an eye on the TVs above the bar all day as college basketball tournaments, international soccer matches, and other events were canceled.
“That doesn’t sound good for next week,” he said.
The Fours will probably have to cut staffing to cope, Costa said, and he worries what the slowdown will mean for vendors. But, he said, the business has ridden out hockey strikes, 9/11, and the 2008 economic crash. It will ride this out, as well.
“This will be like summer for us,” he said. “But, then I heard on TV the NBA might play through the summer now. So that’ll be good."
Some of his customers were taking an optimistic view, too.
Dan and Melissa Boucher had just flown down from Ontario Thursday morning, to celebrate his 40th birthday with a weekend in Boston and the Bruins-Maple Leafs game Saturday night. Dan Boucher ticked off the tourist sites they wanted to hit — “I used to watch ‘Cheers’ when I was a kid,” he said — and made plans to wear his Leafs jersey to watch Saturday’s game at the Fours, if he couldn’t get in the Garden himself.
Even if the game was canceled (which it was, within an hour), he was determined to make his first trip to Boston a memorable one.
“It sucks,” Boucher said. “But we’ll make do.”