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With lockout over, it’s back to business in Foxborough

At Chickie Flynn’s near Patriot Place, the sign in front announced the good news. At Chickie Flynn’s near Patriot Place, the sign in front announced the good news. (Kayana Szymczak for The Boston Globe)
By Kathleen Pierce
Globe Correspondent / July 26, 2011

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Minutes after the news was announced yesterday morning that NFL owners and players had agreed to end the lockout, the phones started ringing at the Red Fox Motel in Foxborough.

“Two fans booked rooms for Sept. 1,’’ said motel owner Rasikbhai Patel.

Glued to the television since the lockout began in March, Patel is now glad to turn his thoughts to pigskin and profits. “Oh my god, I was watching every day, that is my bread and butter,’’ he said. “Now, I am worry free. God has listened to my prayers and good wishes.’’

The owner, who fretted about making his mortgage payments if the New England Patriots’ season was canceled, spent the morning calling season ticketholders to tell them their rooms are ready.

The 4 1/2-month lockout officially ended last night when players voted to approve a new contract to get the NFL season underway. If the labor impasse was not resolved and the season was canceled, an estimated $160 million would have been lost in each NFL city, along with 3,000 jobs, the NFL Players Association said.

Now players will begin drifting back to the Patriots complex, with the opening of training camp scheduled for tomorrow and the public able to get their first glimpse of team members at an open session Thursday. The first preseason game at Foxborough is Aug. 11 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the first regular-season game at Gillette Stadium is scheduled for Sept. 18, against the San Diego Chargers.

Business owners up and down Route 1 breathed a sigh of relief and were eager to put the nightmare behind them and welcome fans. At Chickie Flynn’s near Patriot Place, owner Christine Kelly put a sign that read “The Game is On. Go Patriots’’ on her restaurant’s marquee.

“Everyone’s psyched to have everything back in order and get the games going,’’ said Kelly, whose family restaurant attracts fans from October through January or when the weather’s too foul to tailgate.

“On cold weekends, it’s a great jump for us,’’ Kelly said. “We are all Patriots fans here . . . If they didn’t play, that would have been depressing.’’

Not having an NFL season would have made for a long fall and winter, even for businesses that do well on their own, such as Davio’s upscale steak house.

“Financially, it’s a huge, huge hit for us,’’ said Steve DiFillippo, owner of Davio’s, one of the first restaurants to open at Patriot Place four years ago. “It’s very exiting, and in this economy we can use anything we can get.’’

The Italian eatery attracts ballplayers who come in for Philly cheese steak spring rolls on Monday nights. And a Tom Brady or Matt Light sighting is always good for business.

Although the news was a cause for celebration, Paul Flaherty, general manger at Davio’s, was thinking about beefing up staffing schedules and stocking the kitchen. “Now it’s time for us to prepare,’’ he said. “Training camp starts on Thursday. On a general day we get thousands coming through here. That affects schedules and purchasing; it will make lunch busier.’’

Even business owners who lose money during Patriots games, such as Liam Murphy at the Red Wing Diner in Walpole, were elated.

Murphy will lose up to 83 percent of his business to Foxborough traffic on game Sundays, but as a diehard Pats’ fan, he had to smile. “I think everyone’s looking forward to a football season,’’ he said. “I’m glad to see training camp saved.

DiFillippo said the lockout was welcome news, but added that the death of Myra Kraft, the wife of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, still has him keeping emotions in check. “We’re not celebrating at this point,’’ he said. “But with what happened last week with Myra, we could use some good news.’’

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