Local businesses hit hard by University dining restrictions

Bob Feeney, Contributing Writer

As COVID-19 cases on campus rose to unprecedented levels and classes went totally remote in an ensuing “shutdown,” little-noticed restrictions were also put in place to prevent dining off-campus. In an email to the student body, University President John Bravman noted that, “[d]ining or drinking in off-campus restaurants, bars or other establishments is a high-risk activity and is strongly discouraged at this timeIt’s especially important to avoid establishments that are not following state policies on social distancing” — adding a personal plea — “[p]lease: For the health and safety of the Lewisburg community, I am asking you to abide by this restriction at this time, recognizing that this may impinge on many of you and many local business owners as well.” 

A manager of Matty’s Bar and Grill in Lewisburg described the effects of shutdown on his restaurant succinctly. “We’re fortunate that we are connected to a hotel, so we often see business from students, but we did see an effect on the amount of customers following the email last week.”

When asked about the same restrictions and how they have affected business, Dave Smith of Mancini’s Italian Restaurant on Market Street noted that, “although I was unaware of the campus restrictions, yes, I’ve noticed a slowdown in student dine-ins. I also have had many reservations from students that either cancelled or didn’t show — which is a major cost as we are already limited to 50 percent capacity.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment on campus and in the local community that clearly different from previous academic years, severely limiting the number of events and opportunities local restaurants are able to cater. With the restrictions imposed on campus regarding off-campus dining, an even greater loss of traffic was suffered by Lewisburg restaurants. 

“The catering has been basically gone as a fairly large portion of our revenue was sports and other catering. With the sports being basically cancelled, I have lost both Bucknell and visiting teams as well as other swim and track meets that have cancelled,” Smith said.

While there is still a restriction on dining off-campus due to risk of COVID-19 transmission in town, students are still able to support local restaurants by ordering delivery or purchasing take-out meals from restaurants in the local area — most of which offer one or both options.

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