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Athens Halloween is upon us; Court Street prepares

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For Ohio University, October means the giant Athens Halloween Block Party. For local business owners, it means potentially drunk customers.

It’s always a question whether businesses can handle staying open during the block party. GoodFella’s Pizza is a popular destination that brings in even more business during the festival; Big Mamma’s Burritos, another Athens favorite, opts to close.

Barbara Stout has owned Athens Underground on Court Street for 12 years. She once tried to stay open but found it wasn’t worth it.

“There is a point when the amount of unruly drunks begin to outweigh serious customers,” Stout said. “To be honest, that point has gotten earlier every year.”

The hordes of intoxicated people have forced her to close in order to protect her store. Even when she’s closed though, the party still affects her business. This year’s plans include a stage near her store, but she’s not worried about damages to her business.

“I personally don’t have to worry about that,” Stout said. “That’s the one thing that’s good about not having any windows; it makes you really secure on these big weekends.”

Like Stout, many of the business owners on Court Street are residents of Athens who used to visit the block party themselves. However, what was once a fun night on the town has become cause for concern.

“Lots of my friends who own business on Court Street camp out at night till two or three in the morning to protect their businesses,” Stout said.

In order to protect their business, the owners of Big Mamma’s just close their business outright. The decision to close the eatery came after customers left damage to the store in 2013, leading to comical signs in the windows and even Facebook posts reminding patrons why they won’t be open.

For one GoodFella’s manager, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, said the biggest difference between GoodFellas and other businesses in dealing with the unruly crowd was that the pizza shop sells pizza by the slice, rather than making it to order, which moves customers through faster.

“We’re just making batches upon batches of pizza at a time,” the manager said. “(Stores like Big Mamma’s) have to worry about particulars like what kind of salsa, what kind of cheese. We just make a crap ton of cheese and a crap ton of pepperoni and try to get them in and out as fast as we can.”

GoodFella’s stays open 364 days, closing only for an employee party. Deciding what’s best for business isn’t always an easy choice, and predicting how a Halloween weekend will turn out at OU is impossible.

“It’s always up in the air,” the manager said. “Some years it gets really big and populated from 12 to three (a.m.) and I’ve been here for years where it’s been dead. You just never really know.”

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