If the Los Angeles Lakers trade disgruntled superstar Kobe Bryant, he may take more than his top-selling jersey with him to his new team.

Downtown restaurants last year were beneficiaries of the 40 sold-out regular season and playoffs games as fans turned out in droves to see the NBA's arguably most dynamic player.

"People are drawn to winning teams," said Don Luis Camacho, president of Camacho's Inc., the management company for Liberty Grill located at 11th and Flower Street. "It is important for the Lakers to be strong."

Any drop in attendance presumably would cut into the number of fans who patronize downtown establishments on game nights. Bars, gas stations, parking lots and souvenir shops could see their business drop as well.

Liberty Grill opened a year ago to healthy business that has grown steadily, according to Camacho, who attributes the crowds to his eatery's location across from Staples Center and the burgeoning downtown population. Post-game parties for USC football fans who make the short trip from the Coliseum help as well, Camacho said.

For bars and dining spots outside of downtown, the effect of a Bryant exit could actually be the opposite, according to one West Hollywood restaurateur, who even expects to see an increase in business if Bryant leaves.

Although a native Angeleno and Lakers fan himself, David Haskell, owner of Bin 8945 says that the team's success hurts his business. The restaurant, also open for one year, saw revenues decline as much as 30 percent on game nights.

"Fine dining suffers because people stay home to watch the Lakers," Haskell said. "But I still want to see the team win."

Road Test

El Segundo-based Computer Sciences Corp. has taken the lead among cycling team sponsors in assuring its athletes are competing drug-free.

Since last December, the company has conducted more than 400 blood and urine tests on its roughly 30 athletes in an effort to catch cheaters and to protect the health and integrity of the riders. The company expects to complete more than 800 tests by the end of the year.

The popularity of cycling in the United States has seen significant growth over the past decade, due in large part of the success of Lance Armstrong. The sport's integrity took a major hit just a year after the cycling superstar's retirement, however, when American Tour de France champion Floyd Landis was stripped of his title after testing positive for banned drugs. That incident was one of several that involved doping, and CSC is aggressively seeking to protect and assure the integrity of the athletes in whom they have millions of dollars invested.


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