How an orchestra strike or lock-out could affect the economy

As time runs out for the Minnesota Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra to reach new labor agreements with their musicians unions, MPR’s Chris Roberts took a look at how much economic pain work stoppages might cause in their respective hometowns.

At the Zelo Restaurant on Nicollet Mall, bar manager Michael Persian said the bustling eatery counts on 50 to 60 dinner patrons before every evening concert.

“You could look at anywhere from a few thousand dollars a night to $10,000 maybe per week of lost business or revenue for the restaurant,” he said.

Downtown St. Paul is already suffering from a lockout by the National Hockey League of all its teams, including the Minnesota Wild. A work stoppage at the SPCO makes city director of arts and culture Joe Spencer shudder.

“A) I don’t think it’s going to happen, and b) we just can’t let it happen,” he said.

Downtown St. Paul’s businesses and restaurants rely on the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts being busy seven days a week, Spencer said. SPCO audiences produce a significant chunk of their revenue. There’s also an effort by four Twin Cities arts groups, including the SPCO, to raise $75 million to build a new concert hall at the Ordway. So far, $60 million has been raised.

“And if there’s a work stoppage at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra,” Spencer said, “it would have a chilling effect on that fund drive as we’re in sort of the last stretch of getting to that $75 million goal.”

Spencer believes the two parties are making progress and will reach an agreement before the deadline hits at midnight on Sunday.

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