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Updated Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 08:55 AM

Lower Queen Anne businesses already looking forward to return of the Sonics

By Sandi Doughton
Seattle Times science reporter

When the news was confirmed Monday that professional basketball could be headed back to Seattle, the manager of Oskar's Kitchen on Lower Queen Anne got on the phone with her boss. And yes, she said, Shawn Kemp was jazzed.

"I didn't think it would happen this fast," said Jaime Baranski, who has been working for the former Sonics star for about two years. Oskar's clientele includes a lot of hard-core Sonics fans who never gave up hope Seattle would have a team again, she said. Now, Baranski and the staff that runs Kemp's eatery and bar are looking forward to the rush of business that basketball will bring to the neighborhood — and planning a party to celebrate.

"It's already in the works," she said.

Baranski figures she'll need to add some more flat-screen TVs to ensure every seat offers a good view of NBA games.

Across the street at the Mecca Cafe and Bar, longtime bartender Mickey Braun recalled the crowds that used to pack the place when the Sonics were at nearby KeyArena. It'll be great to have that energy back again, he said, even if the team only plays at the Key for two seasons before moving to a new stadium in Sodo.

"There's nothing in Lower Queen Anne but bars and restaurants," Braun said. "This will mean cash for us."

He's also hoping for glory in a town that hasn't seen a professional men's championship team since 1979.

"I think if the Sonics come back it will break the curse on our city," he said.

P.J. Kendall, who manages McMenamins Queen Anne Pub & Brewery, predicted sellouts at KeyArena for as long as the Sonics play there That will mean 41 busy days and nights at her restaurant, which currently draws many of its customers from the opera, ballet and theaters.

"Basketball fans are big beer drinkers," she said.

Businesses around Pioneer Square were equally pleased, even though it will be a couple of years before the new arena is finished.

Basketball will provide a big boost during the slow months of January and February, said Kenny Jensen, manager of Elysian Brewing Company near CenturyLink Field. But Jensen is withholding judgment on basketball fans' level of thirst. Right now, he said, no group can match the Seahawks faithful.

At the Seattle Team Shop, nestled between Safeco and CenturyLink fields, John Savia was buying a Sonics shirt and cap for a friend who just moved to Seattle from Sacramento, the Kings' current home.

"He's pretty happy," Savia said. "Now he'll have a chance to go to the games here."

Even though the Sonics have been gone from Seattle for more than four years, team jerseys, caps and socks have remained a big seller, said assistant store manager Josh Davison. So, too, have T-shirts that bemoan the fact the city was robbed of its team.

Those might not sell as well if the NBA returns to Seattle, but Davison is optimistic about other offerings, particularly Sonics jerseys that bear the name of Sacramento Kings player Isaiah Thomas, the former Washington star.

"Those," he said, "will be big sellers."

Sandi Doughton: 206-464-2491 or sdoughton@seattletimes.com


ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Lower Queen Anne businesses, like ex-Sonics star Shawn Kemp's restaurant Oskar's Kitchen, could receive a major boost from NBA games played at KeyArena, if only for two years.




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