Home Politics Athens City Council debates effects of Halloween on local businesses

Athens City Council debates effects of Halloween on local businesses

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Court Street will remain open Oct. 26 despite a trick-or-treating event sponsored by Athens Uptown Business Association, Athens City Council decided Monday.

The street was originally slated to close for the duration of the annual trick-or-treating event to ensure safety for everyone participating, but having the event during the week before the Athens Halloween Block Party made some owners of businesses located on Court Street worried about potentially losing revenue.

Barbara Stout, the owner of Athens Underground on Court Street, voiced her concerns to the council because, according to her, the revenue she brings in during the week leading up to the block party surpasses her revenue for the entire summer.

“Imagine you have a business on the Internet, and someone says, ‘Oh, we’ll just close down the Internet for about three hours on Black Friday,’” Stout said to the council. “This is my Black Friday. It’s really critical to me.”

Councilwoman Michele Papai, D-3rd Ward, said closing Court Street could be a much bigger problem affecting local businesses.

“We have a variety of business on Court Street, and they all don’t benefit from a lot of the things that get done, whether it’s a car show or a band concert,” Papai said. “This may be something that we want to sit down with our planner and Ohio University and other business owners to really discuss … what is occurring on our main street.”

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl weighed in on the issue as well. He said that although it could be arranged that Court Street only gets shut down during the summer when the majority of Ohio University students aren’t here, there needs to be a balance in when the street stays open and when it closes.

The council voted 5-2 to leave the street open during Oct. 26 in an attempt to help businesses. Councilmember Jennifer Cochran, D-At Large, voted with the majority, but said she could see both sides of the argument.

“I support the work that the Chamber (of Commerce) is doing and the (Athens) Uptown Business Association is doing, but in this case, I can definitely see where this is hurting some of the businesses on Court Street,” Cochran said later. “It’s a challenge to strike that balance.”

While Stout was happy that the council took her concerns into consideration, she still plans to close her business early on Oct. 26 as long as the event stays scheduled for that day. The event may still be changed to Nov. 2, but the decision is ultimately up to AUBA instead of Athens City Council.

“If you’re still going to have the trick or treat, close the street,” Stout told the council after their vote. “I don’t want to see children get hurt. You can’t have the trick or treat and then not close the street. My business is not worth one kid getting hurt.”

Several other ordinances passed also focused on preparing the city for Halloween. The council approved closing Court Street from Mulberry Street to Carpenter Street and suspending ‘unnecessary noise’ enforcement and the rules against vending in the city for Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.

Another issue brought to the attention of the council was a sewer break in a ravine between Briarwood Drive and Madison Avenue. According to Mayor Wiehl, there is sewage flowing from the broken pipes, but it is currently difficult for the city to fix.

“We’re evaluating as fast as we can,” Wiehl said.  “I don’t think it’s an emergency yet, but I’m sure to somebody living downstream, it probably is, so we’re trying to get a handle on it as fast as possible.”

When asked what constituents should do in order to handle the situation, Wiehl couldn’t offer any advice at the time.

“Just don’t go swimming in it or walking in it,” Wiehl said. “Be considerate of your neighbors downstream.”

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