October 26, 2006

C-Town Lacks 24-Hour Dining Establishments

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It’s 3 a.m. on a Saturday in Collegetown. After a night of debauchery, Cornell students flood the area streets, staggering toward home up the Ithaca hills. Suddenly, a student turns to his friend. “Are you hungry, man?” he asks. Lo and behold, his friend is famished. Unfortunately for the pair, late-night food is tough to come by in the Collegetown neighborhood. With no all-night eateries and only a handful of restaurants open past three, students in C-Town are often left hungry at the end of the night.

Gregar Brous, owner of the popular Collegetown Bagels, explained why his store shuts its doors at 2 a.m.
“When the bars close,” Brous said, “everyone goes home. Once they stop drinking, they just want to get something to eat quickly and go right home.”
Staying open until three or later, Brous continued, would just be bad for business.

“It was different when the drinking age was lower,” Brous explained. “Now, though, there’s so much less traffic in Collegetown on the weekends because kids can’t get into a bar. It hasn’t really affected drinking, it’s just changed where they do it.”

Brous is not the only one who feels that Collegetown business does not warrant extended operating hours. Laurie Foster, general manager of the Subway in Collegetown, agreed that the benefit of staying open later on the weekends would not be worth the expense.

“We tried a couple years ago,” Foster said. “What people we’d get were drunk, and it really just wasn’t worth the hassle for our employees.”
Even on Cornell’s campus, eateries like Bear Necessities and J’s Express don’t see the benefit of extended operating hours. Norman Bragg, retail manager of Bear Necessities, explained that business would probably plummet as the night grew later.

“We’re open until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday,” Bragg said, “and there wouldn’t be any need to be open later.”

Even during the week, with Cornell students pulling all-nighters, Bragg contended that business would be too slow to justify a 24-hour operating schedule.

“There really wouldn’t be that many people,” Bragg explained. “If there were only 10-15 people after three in the morning, it wouldn’t be worth it.”
Across North Campus, though, the guys at Louie’s Lunch had an entirely different perspective.

“I think there would be good business at those hours, past 3 a.m.,” said Randy Beck, brother of Ron Beck, the owner. “There’s been times when he’s tried to close at three, but he’s had to stay here ‘till five serving people coming back to campus.”

Beck continued to explain that Louie’s Lunch had tried to stay open later in the past, but it became increasingly hard to find the necessary staff.
“There was a time when we were thinking of doing breakfast, which would essentially keep us open 24 hours a day, but we couldn’t find the manpower,” Beck said.

Back at CTB, Brous had some similar things to say.
“The store manager is given an allotment of employees at each time of the day based on projected revenue,” he explained. “Staying open later, we couldn’t justify keeping our employees here based on the business we’d be doing. I don’t think we could pay the bills.”

Still, Brous was open to the possibility of staying open later if there was proof that business would be good.

“We’re looking to close earlier during the week and possibly stay open later on weekends,” Brous said. “If we got feedback from students who said that they’d show up after three in the morning, then maybe we could stay open.”
According to some Cornell students, that feedback might already exist. CJ Slicklen ’09, along with three of his classmates from the School of Hotel Administration, recently conducted a survey among the student population at Cornell about the desirability of an all-night diner in Collegetown. The survey found that 75 percent of seniors and 79 percent of sophomores believed that an all-night diner was important for the area. Conversely, only 48 percent of sophomores thought that the idea was a good one (the survey did not include freshmen).

Based on his group’s findings, Slicklen was confident that a Collegetown diner or 24-hour eatery would be embraced by the Cornell community.
“We’ve definitely found that there’s plenty of interest in it, especially among Collegetown residents,” Slicklen said. “People want a place to go late at night, and they want something greasy to eat.”

For the most part, Cornell students agree with Slicklen’s conclusion.
“I’d like to see a restaurant stay open all night in Collegetown,” said Frank Wilburn ’10. “After a night of drinking or going to a party in Collegetown, you want something to eat.”

Wilburn continued to explain that even during the week, extended operating hours at Bear Necessities would be welcomed by Cornell freshmen.
“If Bear Necessities was open later, that would be great,” Wilburn said. “If you’re up late studying or something, you need something to eat.”
Jonathan Lee ’09 agreed.

“An all-night restaurant in Collegetown would absolutely do good business,” Lee said. “There would be a lot of demand for it.”