October 16, 2003

Late-Nite Grub in C-Town Proves Hard to Find

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It’s 2 a.m. on Friday night. Standing on the corner of Dryden Road and College Avenue, over 30 students, but only four open stores, are visible. This is the situation some students are faced with every weekend: the night is young, but there are not enough places to eat.

Part of the problem seems to stem from storeowners’ belief in students’ lack of interest.

“We close at 11 p.m., but we wouldn’t have anyone coming in past then anyway,” said Smoothie Hut employee Noelle Valente. “It’s usually pretty quiet in here after 10:30 p.m.”

Two doors down, Pita Pit experiences a similar 10:30 p.m. lull, but they have extended their hours until 4 a.m. to actualize another trend: “From midnight till 2 a.m., we do good business, but it’s at 2:30 a.m. that it really hits and keeps going for a half hour nonstop,” said former Pita Pit employee Dan France.

What are people ordering? “The same things they order all day,” France said.

There is nothing to indicate that Smoothie Hut would not experience a similar early-morning rush. If anything, theirs might be better.

“I could just as easily have gone for a salad at Smoothie Hut, but it’s not open,” said Inna Kleyman ’06 as she left Pita Pit at 2:45 a.m. that night.

Given the choice, “I’d rather [have] a wrap than a pita,” said Alison Janoski ’07.

The coffeehouse side of Stella’s could serve an entirely different purpose than the other stores open at 2 a.m. if it were open that late, but it is closed by 1 a.m. every night of the week.

The coffeehouse is “consistently busy from 9 to 11 p.m.,” said Stella’s employee Lee Strock ’06. When asked if he thought Stella’s should stay open later, Strock said, “After 11, it depends on the night. We would get business, but it wouldn’t be worth it.”

It seems that students disagree, however.

“At the end of the night, I wouldn’t mind a place to just sit and chill,” said Sonia De Alwis ’07.

Eli Rosenberg ’06 pointed out that Stella’s has a fairly steady clientele.

“Stella’s is where you go to get your work done,” he said. “You’ll always have the kids who have the major project due Monday. You’ll have the grad students, too. They’re there engaged in this competition — it’s like inverse penis envy — for who has the smallest laptop. When I have work, I stay up with lots and lots of coffee myself.”

The Greek House closes at midnight and Eat Dessert First by 1 a.m. Bars, like the other half of Stella’s, close only half an hour later, at 1:30. Their limitations, however, are due to a local ordinance which states that all alcoholic drinks must be consumed and gone by 1:30.

In response to late-night popularity, certain stores have taken down their posted hours and become more relaxed about their closing times. Hong Kong restaurant will close anytime from 1 to 2 a.m., depending on traffic. This wouldn’t be a bad policy, but as Collegetown Bagels employee Dan Lovett points out, “2 o’clock’s not always late enough.”

“Collegetown Bagels used to close at 2 a.m., but we started getting really busy so now it’s 3 a.m. sometimes,” Lovett added.

CTB’s posted hours are until 3 a.m. every night.

Part of the problem can be attributed to the labor supply. For the most part, students are not willing to work in stores at 2 or 3 in the morning.

“If I were looking for employment, I would never work those hours,” said Michelle Newman ’05.

The few stores that have realized the profitability of late-night business, and which have been able to obtain workers to provide it, have been successful. Collegetown Pizza, for example, closes at 3 a.m.

“We do a good nighttime business,” said Collegetown Pizza employee Kehali Attia. “It gets really busy and we usually have a big crowd in here when we’re ready to close.”

Creating a little competition, Mama Teresa’s is open an hour later, until 4.

Providing some differentiation in the late-night market, Jason’s is open and doing business until its closing time of 3 a.m. and occasionally even later.

“When the bars let out, the guys go across the street for pizza and the girls come here for a yogurt,” owner Jason Burnham said. Though technically closed, “there have seriously been so many times when kids are banging at the door at 10 after 3. In those cases, we just ask them what they need, and if they’re really desperate we’ll let them in,” he added.

“At 2 o’clock in the morning, it’s usually just us, the pizza places and Pita Pit,” Burnham said, but there is clearly room for more.

Archived article by Erica Fink