- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2002

Bars and restaurants around Camden Yards have turned into cauldrons of dejection and disgust as managers and employees prepare to write off the crowds from Baltimore and beyond that normally flock to Orioles games.
Small businesses around the red-brick ballpark in downtown Baltimore are bracing for a bitter, money-losing September if Major League baseball players put down their bats and gloves as early as today.
"I have two schedules for next week one for a strike and one for no strike," said Michael Flechner, the manager of Max's at Camden Yards, just blocks from the ballpark. "Everybody here will make less money if there's a strike."
Andy Yesko, manager of Pickle's Pub, across from the park, is a veteran of the 1994 baseball strike. He said the timing of this year's threatened walkout before students from the nearby University of Maryland return and before the Baltimore Ravens start playing football could not be worse.
"This one's gonna hurt," he said.
In fact, it has already been hurting around Camden Yards for a few weeks.
Ever since the million-dollar stars of the Major League began talking openly of a work stoppage at the end of August, business has slowed. Fans may yet stay away for good, managers and employees around the park said.
"Everybody says they won't go back after a strike," Mr. Flechner said.
Though Orioles and players from other teams have warmed the barstools around the park, establishment workers roundly excoriate the players union for making outrageous demands at the negotiating table.
"Compared to other athletes I know, they're spoiled brats," said Mark Espenshad, a bartender at Pickle's who said he has worked at bars where football, baseball and basketball players drink.
Mark Berner, the solitary customer in the Orioles' nearly empty Camden Yards souvenir shop, said he has nearly given up on baseball. Mr. Berner, visiting from Allentown, Pa., said he might buy a souvenir of a player he respected but that the teams have earned his enduring disappointment.
"My regard for baseball is as low as it has ever been," he said.
Aramark Corp., the Philadelphia company that manages the souvenir store, concession stands and other shops at Oriole Park, declined to comment on the effect a strike would have on its business.
This weekend will be quiet around Camden Yards regardless of whether player-owner negotiations deadlock, because the Orioles are not scheduled to play until Tuesday night. But the O's September at-home schedule is packed with games against the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and the Anaheim Angels.
Those teams players and fans regularly eat and drink to their heart's content when they're in Baltimore, say bar managers near the ball park.
Max's can usually quintuple its take on a night when the Orioles play. If they're going head-to-head with the Yankees, New Yorkers usually throw another $4,000 into the register, Mr. Flechner said. They tip well, too.
A baseball walkout will leave many businesses around Camden Yards depending on the less-than-deep pockets of area students.
"Football fans come out to party, and we love it," said Christine Groller, kitchen manager at Sliders Bar & Grille across from the park. "But it still won't even out if there's a baseball strike."

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