Johnny Cash’s “Walk the Line” resonated through the downstairs bar at Iron Horse Taproom on a recent weeknight, but with the exception of a few patrons playing shuffleboard and another handful surrounding a table, the Man in Black serenaded mostly unoccupied orange and black barstools.
On such a night last year, Iron Horse would have been brimming with an early crowd until about 6:30 p.m., when the majority would take the half-block walk to Verizon Center for a Washington Capitals game only to return after. With the NHL embroiled in a 102-day lockout, though, the legions of hockey fans who have filled the arena for sellouts dating from 2009 aren’t absent only from the building itself, but from the surrounding bars and restaurants.
“This neighborhood has got to figure out a way to be independent of the Verizon Center,” said Daniel Williams, the general manager at Iron Horse. Williams said Capitals game nights bring in roughly $5,000 extra in sales, sometimes more depending on the team’s opponent. “I hate the idea of living and dying because the guys in the NHL can’t make up their mind about how much they want to pay each other,” he said.