Customers waiting for the carry-out orders at Bagel Street Deli
Customers waiting for the carry-out orders at Bagel Street Deli. [Aditya Sahasrabudhe | WOUB]

No Students Equals No Business Even When Athens Reopens

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ATHENS, Ohio – About a third of the U.S. economy has frozen because of the coronavirus outbreak and both the state of Ohio and Athens have seen  their share of economic losses.

Although some restaurants have reported an uptick in sales compared to the numbers reported a few weeks ago, local restaurateurs don’t expect an upsurge in businesses anytime soon.

Where some restaurants and businesses have temporarily shut down, others are keeping their businesses running, courtesy of carry-outs and curbside deliveries. Court St. Coffee owner Charlie Fulks said even restarting the economy in what looks like a deserted city, won’t provide a substantial increase in the business.

“Even if come May 1 everything is supposed to go back to normal, there aren’t just enough customers in Athens,” he said. “Most students have gone home so we just don’t have the client base that we used to, so I don’t see that changing drastically, come May 1.”

Sole proprietors like local restaurants and coffee houses have suffered major slumps in businesses in the last few weeks. With decreased sales and not enough clientele, local businesses have

A customer making a credit card payment for the carry out. [Picture courtesy: Aditya Sahasrabudhe]
laid off most of the student and full-time employees. Fulks said he plans to bring back his staff as soon as the lockdown breaks.

“We are going to try to get as many staff back working as we can. It depends on how busy we are. We can’t get all 15 student employees back. Most of them are back home anyway,” he said. “I don’t have student employees that are living in Athens. Full-time employees- I’ll get as many as I can – based on the business we have.”

Sam Crowl, a customer at Bagel Street Deli, said they are running the business well without violating any social distancing guidelines.

Markers drawn on the floor to help customers maintain the 6-feet distance. [Picture courtesy: Aditya Sahasrabudhe]
“These guys are doing really well. This is the second time I’ve come by and I’m not even within 6 feet of them. And with the credit-card technology, it’s really easy,” he said.

Apart from the usual considerations for safety, many businesses have stopped accepting payments in cash. Many restaurants have also placed markers 6-feet apart to help customers maintain social distancing.

Crowl said he sees restaurants offering more services than just carry-outs and emphasizes how important it will be to continue taking similar measures even if the stay-at-home orders are lifted.

“I hope that people understand that most of what we are doing now, we need to keep in the mind even after May 1,” he said. “So, I imagine that there will be more restaurants open and not just to carry-outs, but we are going to need the same kind of considerations for safety within those restaurants as well.”