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Now, instead of riding momentum and benefiting from more customers, businesses in the entertainment district are watching labor negotiations.

“I get nervous, and I get more and more frustrated,” said Agee, who owns Miss Polly’s Cafe. “All we want is for them to get their stuff together.

“It’s a double-edge sword for me because I’m a fan and a business owner.”

Commissioner David Stern has long warned that once games are missed, both sides might stiffen their proposals in hopes of recovering what’s been lost, which is why he said last week he feared games could be lost through Christmas without a deal this week.

After three days and 30 hours of meetings with a federal mediator, negotiations fell apart when union officials said they were told they must commit to a 50-50 split of revenues before owners would agree to discuss the salary cap system.

“Right now, they’re saying it’s got to be a precondition. If we’re going to meet, you’ve got to agree to accept 50-50. So as long as that edict is out there, then when are we going to meet?” Hunter said. “We’re saying we’re unwilling to meet unless we can talk about the system independent of the number.”

There is no indication owners will be prepared to go beyond a 50-50 split, and with players currently at 52.5 or 53, the sides are about $100 million apart on an annual basis.

Players seem willing to give on one of the issues if they scored concessions on the other — they’ve already offered to reduce their guarantee of revenues from 57 percent — but management has made it clear it must have both. That doesn’t leave much room for compromise.

Or a season.


AP freelance writer Clay Bailey in Memphis, Tenn. contributed to this report.