Clarification appended.

During the past year with COVID-19, Athens establishments have been forced to navigate the unpredictability of the pandemic and are hoping for a summer with their regular number of sales as cases continue to decline.

With Gov. Mike DeWine’s plan to vaccinate all Ohio college students and the decrease in COVID-19 restrictions, small businesses have reason to believe this summer will be somewhat normal.

Jim Jezik, owner of Random House, said he does not expect COVID-19 to impact his business this summer.

“I haven't given it a lot of thought,” Jezik said. “I didn't think it was going to be drastically different from any other summer.”

Dylan Dresbach, a host at Union Street Diner, feels differently and said he expects business to increase during the summer.

“Personally, I expect (summer) to be pretty crazy just from the past month or two that we've had here,” Dresbach said. “Lately, the owner of the restaurant thinks that it’s just going to continue to get busy and that we actually won't slow down until fall time or so.”

Similarly to Jezik, Mike Carson, owner of Mike’s Dog Shack, predicts business will not change for him.

“Since they’re going to have classes back in, I think it’s going to look like it was now, even though people are remote,” Carson said. “So, I think the influx that we’ll get will be equivalent to kind of where we are now.”

During the summer, students typically leave campus, decreasing the amount of business in Athens. Dresbach said Union Street Diner might see a decrease in business with the lack of students and the number of other businesses.

“I feel like (business will) be impacted in a good way,” Dresbach said. “I also feel, because there's a lot of new businesses that have opened up, that will actually take a lot of business away from us at certain times in the day.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses in Athens struggled financially, according to a previous Post report. In order to combat their financial struggles, businesses have had to make alterations in order to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

Bagel Street Deli closed in-store dining and ordering, using its outdoor window as a place to take orders. Additionally, Donkey Coffee began using mobile ordering at the start of the pandemic, according to a previous Post report.

Businesses have also had to decrease hours and employees due to the pandemic, which will make this upcoming summer look different from previous years.

“Usually, the case is a lot different because we would be open 24 hours,” Dresbach said. “Now, we're only open until 10 p.m. for dine-in and 12 ... for takeout. That will definitely take a lot of business down.”

To combat the loss of business, Union Street Diner has also started accepting DoorDash orders.

Although several establishments have faced financial struggles during the pandemic, Jezik said Random House hasn't faced many issues itself.

“(I have seen) pretty much the same mix of people,” Jezik said. “I've been doing OK, really, as far as sales. My biggest problem is I've been in here seven days a week by myself.”

Although Jezik is running the store alone, he is currently not looking to hire people.

Despite the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has posed for small businesses in Athens, Carson said the decline in restrictions will allow for more business.

“Summers aren’t spectacular, but I think people are excited to be back on campus, so I think it's gonna be a little better than usual,” Carson said.

@mayacatemorita

mm294318@ohio.edu 

Clarification: A previous version of this article insinuated that Jezik has dealt with “staffing issues” at Random House. Though he is the only employee, he is not currently looking to hire anyone. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.