Home Campus Athens could be a ghost town during HallOUweekend: Here’s how that impacts the city

Athens could be a ghost town during HallOUweekend: Here’s how that impacts the city

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Athens Halloween Block Party. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Athens is the city that doesn’t sleep during Halloween. Large crowds of students and locals dress up to party and celebrate Halloween on Court Street, a drag famously known for its mix of bricks and booze. 

The coronavirus pandemic, however, prevents the city from continuing the Halloween party tradition this year.

After 46 years of hosting one of Athens most well-known events, the city canceled the annual block party due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus. In Athens, cases of COVID-19 have been rising since students returned to campus for the fall semester.

But the city will also be impacted financially by the cancelation of the massive block party. 

Halloween accounts for two-thirds of the overall cost for festivities, costing $60,000 alone each year, according to Athens Mayor Steve Patterson.

“The overall budget the Council would spend for festivities years prior to COVID-19 would be about $80,000 to $90,000,” Patterson said in a phone interview.

Due to the lack of visitors and students in town, many businesses, including hotels and bars, are bracing for a weak Halloween weekend. 

Athens City Auditor Kathy Hecht said in a phone interview that the city is working to avoid large crowds this Halloween. She said that businesses are already hurting financially and tax revenue could get worse next year. 

Mike Carson, owner of Mike’s Dog Shack, a carryout on Court Street, said he expects a significantly lower turnout for Halloween this year and will buy less alcohol than he does during normal years.

Carson will also not be promoting any parties on Twitter. He said he expects most people in Athens to stay at home rather than hit the bars. 

“Bars can only hold so many folks, safe distancing and all, and most folks are being respectful and staying home,” Carson said via Twitter direct message. 

During this Halloween weekend, streets will not be closed off and the bars will still close at 10 p.m., which has been mandated by the Ohio Department of Health.

Jennifer Cochran, manager at Cat’s Corner on Union Street, is not expecting a busy Halloween weekend. She said through a Twitter direct message she is concerned that hotels are only half-booked. She said the fact that several other bars in the area are closed may compound financial difficulties.

“With The Union closed and Jackie O’s only taking dining reservations, it widens the gap between us and Court Street,” Cochran said.

Although Cochran said Cat’s Corner hasn’t seen the crowds and lines some Court Street bars have, she worries the 10 p.m. cut-off has only increased the amount of house parties, where there is no guarantee of safe social distancing.

Mark Samuels, the manager of Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriot on State Street, said that while the hotel is still operating, it has not seen as much business this year as in years past. 

“A typical week before COVID-19, we would be fully booked everyday except Sundays, but since the pandemic, the amount of times we were fully booked has significantly decreased,” Samuels said. 

While the city will continue to enforce mass gathering restrictions and hopes people cooperate to maintain overall safety, Athens Police Department Lt. Jeff McCall said anyone who disobeys the city’s orders will receive a violation of health order.

Athens neighborhood trick-or-treating will be permitted but must remain within the safety guidelines, according to Patterson. 

Cole Behrens contributed to this report.

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