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O'Bettys Red Hot at 15 W State St.

Late-night stops in Athens struggle for business

Late night stops in Uptown Athens are struggling with their business during the Fall Semester this year. Although Grub’n’Go, located at 11 W. Union St., is a newer business, it’s noticing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses. 

“Yeah I just opened June 26, so I don't have a real good comparison,” Todd Thompson, owner of Grub’n’Go said. “With COVID being here, I think that the business is rather slow.”

Thompson believes having less students on campus has been a large contributor to having slow business this fall.

“There’s not as much foot traffic here on campus, in Uptown Athens, as what there normally is,” Thompson said. “But, I would expect with the students coming back, if they, when they come back that our business should more than double.”

Thompson also believes that the bars closing earlier than they did before the pandemic contributed to the slow business, in addition to the lack of students in Athens.

“Yes, I believe that more people would make the trip in town, or, you know, they would be out later and I think there would be more foot traffic,” Thompson said. “Right now I think you're having a lot of house parties rather than people going out to the worst, because the hours at the bars are cut short.”

Jay Shapiro, co-owner of Union Street Diner, located at 70 W. Union St., has only kept Union Street Diner open for carryout and delivery since August, and just recently opened up the inside for dine-in. 

“It's more of trying to keep my employees safe and me safe as much as possible to get through this,” Shapiro said.

Union Street Diner used to be open 24 hours a day, but now it is open for carryout from 8 a.m. to midnight and dine-in from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“It's pretty slow,“ Shapiro said. “I think a lot of people are afraid to come out and eat inside a restaurant still.”

Prior to the pandemic, Union Street Diner received about 98% of its sales from dine-in orders. Now, USD’s dine-in sales are at about 30%. 

“After the bars, people used to come in here and we just would be busy because we almost had a waiting list on Friday and Saturday nights… you know, that's kind of a lot of the reason why I closed it because…I don't want to get a bar rush in here and have a bunch of drunken kids not wearing masks,” Shapiro said. 

O’Betty’s Red Hot, located at 15 W. State St., has stayed in business during the pandemic due to its loyal customer base, but it is also struggling from incredibly slow business. 

“It’s not devastating, but it’s, you know, if we go through much more of this it’s going to be really rough,” Robert Satmary, owner of O’Betty’s, said. 

O’Betty’s used to have a day and night crowd, but the pandemic has greatly diminished both groups. O’Betty’s has lost nearly 60% of its total revenue, Satmary said.

“The hardest part was we were almost done with remodeling in March, and January and February we were like ‘great, we’re back!’ You know, because last year was remodeling and we’d been affected by remodeling the year before, so our revenue dropped a little bit,” Satmary said. 

Despite applying for a few local grants, Satmary is unsure if he will close for December due to the revenue from October and November being so low.

“I’m pretty sure we’ll survive because we have an incredible customer base that we’ve developed over the years,” Satmary said. “And they’ve always got us through times like this, although this is pretty much the worst, but we’ve been able to get through the recessions and everything.”

Despite the grim Fall Semester, Satmary believes there will be some improvement in business for Spring Semester.

“All in all, I feel fortunate that I haven’t gotten sick and that we’re still kicking,” Satmary said. 


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