In years past, many small restaurants and businesses benefited from the student-created State Patty’s Day holiday, but this year was not as financially stable for some.
Happy Valley Freez, 234 E. College Ave., felt the impact of this year’s enforcement of an “alcohol-free downtown” where 34 bars and restaurants agreed to halt the sale of alcohol during the State Patty’s Day weekend at the end of February, owner Doug Kifolo said.
“It was always our best weekend in February, equivalent to a big football weekend,” Kifolo said. “This year we were 30 percent under a normal weekend.”
The partnership: Campus & Community United Against Dangerous Drinking, a collaboration between Penn State and State College, distributed $5,000 to 34 restaurants and taverns that agreed not to sell alcohol during the weekend. This is what made Kifolo and other businesses uneasy.
Kifolo said he believes the university did not take the small businesses into consideration.
“It’s us little guys who don’t have a say, and the message to the community was to stay off the streets downtown,” Kifolo said.
Kifolo also said State Patty’s helped carry the business through the slow week of spring break.
“The main difference between Arts Fest and State Patty’s is age, and booths that are set up, but would the bars close during Arts Fest?” Kifolo said.
Pita Cabana Café, 334 E. Calder Way, also suffered a loss of business during this year’s State Patty’s, manager Hitham Hiyajneh said . Hiyajneh said there was a 50 percent decrease in business this year compared to last year.
“So just because I do not sell alcohol means I don’t get money?” Hiyajneh said.
Sait Satici , owner of Penn Kebab, 418 E. College Ave., said business was good this year during State Patty’s, but not as busy as last year’s. During the weekend, Penn Kebab is open until 3 a.m., but this year he said the later hours were very slow. Employees agreed that fewer students on the street meant a lower number of customers for the business.
There was an agreement among many business owners and employees that there was a decrease in student traffic on the streets this year compared to previous State Patty’s weekends.
“I counted more cops than kids walking outside my store,” Kifolo said. “Customers came in and said they were nervous because the cops were intimidating standing right outside.”
But not all businesses experienced a decrease in sales, however.
Mamma Mia’s, 128 E. College Ave., had its best State Patty’s Day sales recorded, owner Massimo Napoli said.
The pizzeria saw a 12 percent increase compared to last year, according to Napoli.
Napoli said he believed that due to bars not selling alcohol, people had no place to go out, so they stayed in places such as his restaurant longer.
“In the past, people would just come in quick and grab something to eat. This year I think more people stayed to eat,” Napoli said. “I also delivered to all the people who were just drinking in their apartments.”
Rotelli, 250 E. Calder Way , had normal business during the weekend, co-owner Dave Krauth said.
“We were happy to support the community efforts to keep the area safe, and we had a great day selling food,” Krauth said.
But Borough Manager, and co-chairman of The Partnership Tom Fountaine said the borough was more concerned with the negative effects to the community at large, though he noted specific businesses reported losing money this year.
“While a few businesses have benefited from this day of high risk drinking which results in a significant cost to other downtown businesses and the taxpayers of the community, many downtown businesses report very negative impacts, with some not opening at all on this day,” Fountaine said.
This year’s efforts to decrease the effects of State Patty’s Day were successful though, as “virtually every measure… was significantly improved,” Fountaine said.
He also noted that none of the revenue for the Alcohol Free Zone came from parking revenue generated through the State College Borough public parking system. The majority of the revenue generated was from the previous State Patty’s Day on-campus parking revenue, Fountaine said.
“Whether or not the Partnership will have sufficient revenue to undertake a similar approach in the future will be something that the Partnership will address in the coming months,” Fountaine said.
Penn State’s Vice President for Student Affairs and co-chairman of The Partnership Damon Sims could not be reached by press time Thursday.