Billy Birgfeld was holding his breath yesterday as the strike deadline set by National Football League players approached.

As an avid Redskins fan, Birgfeld stood to lose a Sunday ritual. But as owner of B&B Caterers, there was much more at stake than that. B&B operates the food and beverage concessions at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, and for every Sunday without football there, Birgfeld loses about $250,000 in business.

"I've just got my fingers crossed that it's settled," Birgfeld said. "Your budget goes to hell and so do your profits."

Birgfeld is not alone. In the District and around the Washington area, the proposed strike threatened dozens of businesses and the livelihoods of several thousand workers.

From the crew that earns overtime preparing RFK's football turf and the vendors who push hot dogs and beer in the stands, to barmaids who pocket extra tips, and french fry wholesalers, an empty stadium Sunday means a pinch on the pocketbook.

"It's going to hurt our business quite a bit on Sunday, I can tell you that," said Fred Mortimer, kitchen manager at Champions restaurant on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, where more than 200 fans usually flock to bend an elbow and cheer the Redskins in front of five color television monitors each week.

Redskins officials said they would announce today a decision on possible refunds for ticket holders if the season is disrupted. Ticket prices average $22.

"We're getting ready just as if we have a game on Sunday," said James Dalrymple, general manager of the D.C. Armory Board, which operates the stadium for the D.C. government. Dalrymple said work crews involved in stadium operations were preparing yesterday for Sunday's scheduled pairing of the Redskins with the New England Patriots and that "we will be ready to do business as normal."

The District stands to lose more than $250,000 in revenue on a strike Sunday, Dalrymple said. He said the money comes from the District's 12 percent cut on ticket revenue, or about $100,000 to $120,000; its 39 percent cut of the concessions, or about $75,000 to $100,000, and all of the parking revenue, or about $25,000 to $35,000. In addition, he said, the city will lose tax revenue on the tickets, concessions and novelties sold at each game.

Metro, which carries an estimated 13,000 to 16,000 rail riders alone to the games and back, also would lose in the neighborhood of $35,000 in bus and rail fares, said spokeswoman Marilyn Dicus, but would forgo the expenses involved in running extra buses and trains. "This is not a profit-making operation to begin with," Dicus said.

Hardest hit by a strike would be more than 600 vendors who work at the stadium part time on Sundays, making up to $100 in pocket money, or the money they need for house or college tuition payments.

"It's going to hurt the little guys. That's who it's going to hurt," said John (Dust Ball) Barnes, whose work life has centered on the Redskins since 1942, when he went to work for the team cleaning the players' shoes. Barnes now supervises several dozen food and beverage vendors for B&B Caterers.

There is a further ripple effect. For instance, if there is a strike more than 9,000 pounds of french fries that normally would be consumed Sunday at RFK will instead stay in a warehouse cooler in Savage, Md., backing up one wholesaler's inventory.

"It isn't a major disaster for us in the strict sense," said Varry Kohan of Kraft/Feldman Inc. food distributors in Savage, which also supplies RFK with about 300 gallons of nacho-flavored cheese for Redskins games.

Kohan said he was "a little disillusioned with the players" over the strike threat, and predicted that other fans also will side with owners.

Others close to the Redskins industry predicted a similar reaction from fans. "If I were an owner, I wouldn't want anybody fooling around with my product," said Mortimer at Champions. "I think people resent the players. Who wouldn't be upset? Look at the salaries quoted in the newspaper."

Stadium vendors have said they will honor a players' picket line, meaning it could be harder to get a beer at games played during a strike. But they hinted that their support had a limit.

"We're going to support {the players} as long as we can. But by the same token, we're anxious to get in there and go to work," said Ralph J. Hawkins, a shop steward for the vendors' union. "We hope this won't go on forever."