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A rainbow flag hangs in the window of Athens Uncorked, a wine bar on Station Street, on Sept. 17. (FILE)

Athens businesses expect increase in tourism this summer

With the reduction of COVID-19 restrictions across the city and campus, Athens businesses are hoping for a lucrative tourism season.

Athens typically hosts a wide range of events during the summer months, such as Athens Brew Week and the annual Pawpaw Festival which attracts a large number of visitors. Athens businesses are expecting an influx in customers due to the reinstatement of those traditional events.

“Previous summers have been, usually pretty slow, aside from a few weeks when there are events,” Amy Mangano, owner of Artifacts Gallery, said. “There were events in town such as Brew Week was a little busier, and Nelsonville Music Fest weekend was busier and Fair Week is a little busier.”

Ellie Olin, owner of Athens Uncorked, said she has high hopes for this upcoming summer in terms of receiving business.

“I definitely see that people in general are feeling much safer about going out,” Olin said. “And just with the warmer weather, of course that is huge for business people. Especially with it getting darker later now, our patio has been pretty packed for the last week.”

Students are noticing that change, too. Ian Kelly, a sophomore studying marketing who works at Busy Day Market, said he has already seen an increase in visitors to Athens and Ohio University’s campus.

“I think there's going to be a lot of people just coming to visit and seeing how OU is, and seeing what the campus life is like,” Kelly said. “Because, with COVID-19 restrictions being lifted and more people wanting to be active, they want to kind of explore more.”

With the expectations for this summer, local Athens businesses are making preparations for an increase in tourism. 

Previously, Athens Uncorked provided lunch options during the summer, and Olin hopes to continue that and also add other amenities to the winery.

“A lot of stuff right now hangs on whether we can expand our seating in time,” Olin said. “I have a lot of people interested in coming in here and doing music. And we've been able to do live … background music. And what I would love to be able to do then, is have – on Friday and Saturday nights – live music outside.”

In addition, Mangano said Artifacts Gallery is hoping to increase its stock for the summer. 

“I'm getting excited by ordering some new t-shirts and cropping some of our old t-shirts,” Mangano said. “We've got a bigger selection on our five and 10 rack, and we're getting in lots more sunglasses.”

Despite the hopeful outlook for some local businesses, others believe that with COVID-19, this summer may be unpredictable. 

“As of right now, we don't have any for sure plans (for the summer) because it's kind of a play by ear thing,” Kelly said. “Because usually, when we expect one thing, it goes the other way.”

Ultimately, with the reduction of COVID-19 precautions and the continuation of previous events, local businesses have a promising outlook for this upcoming summer.

“I do feel like people are just definitely ready to go out again,” Olin said. “I mean, I think that people are wanting to spend time outside with their friends.”


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