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Community support helping local businesses in loss of LHU students

LANA MUTHLER / THE EXPRESS Downtown businesses are suffering from the pandemic and now the loss of university students this fall.

LOCK HAVEN — Local businesses have hit another road block in their efforts to regain revenue in the remainder of 2020.

Lock Haven University recently announced it’s intention to extend remote learning into the fall 2020 semester.

“We expect up to 85% of classes now to be remote and on campus residency to be two-thirds below the typical level,” LHU President Dr. Robert Pignatello said last week.

Currently, 3,425 students are enrolled at LHU’s main campus, meaning about 2,260 of those will not be returning to the area when the semester begins in August.

Without that influx of population, businesses in Clinton County may feel the consequences of it.

“There is no question that shutting down most of Lock Haven University will have a tremendous economic impact,” Mike Flanagan, Clinton County Economic Partnership president, said.

Flanagan said businesses already felt a loss when LHU basically closed in March.

“A lot of businesses depend on the campus,, whether it be restaurants, landlords on North Fairview, and our local hotels. Just missing out on events like Homecoming and graduation trickles down to so many levels. It’s a real blow,” he said.

For many local businesses, community support has been what is keeping their doors open during this time. One of those being Avenue 209 Coffee House, a hot spot for many university students to study and clubs to meet.

Manager Jared Conti said the shop has weathered the last few months and should be able to continue doing so.

“I think we’ll be okay. We’ve kind of gotten used to it after everyone not coming back from spring break,” he said.

Conti noted that there has been a slight uptick in students coming back to campus due to lease agreements and other obligations.

“This might still be a safe hub for students who don’t have a set class schedule,” he said.

Conti feels Avenue 209 will remain in a tough spot for awhile but community support has made it easier.

“The local community has really come out to support us during this time,” he said.

The same can be said for The Bus Stops Here.

Owner Paula Neyhart said she will lose revenue with the near closure of campus.

Neyhart said student teachers often purchase education products during their studies and RAs even buy decorations for doors at the beginning of the semester.

“It will effect the store a bit,” she said.

However, community support is helping the store through this time.

“People have been very supportive… they have been coming in and saying they want to help out,” she said.

Neyhart said does understand why the university made its decision. “I can understand their concern for safety,” she said.

Local restaurant Odd Fellas will feel the loss but not too significantly, according to Manager John Callan.

“It’ll probably effect us, maybe not substantially. We’ve always had a positive rapport with families when they bring their kids to move in,” he said. “I’m pretty sure we’ll survive, it’ll just effect our profit margins.”

Pizza King isn’t concerned for any major loss of revenue while the majority of students learn remotely.

“It will not effect us much,” Manager Mike Bowman said.

Bowman said the store has a good relationship with the local community that keeps them going.

“If you take care of the townies, the townies will take care of you,” he said.

Hangar 9 Restaurant and Lounge could feel the loss of students returning to campus this semester.

“I definitely think it’s going to hurt us. Most given days, even on weekdays, a lot of our nighttime employment comes from a lot of the students,” Rachel Kibler, a waitress at the restaurant said.

Kibler also said their clientel can be made up of college students frequently.

“If you come in here any Friday or Saturday night it’s all college students. Now with what is going on it’s not going to be nearly as busy and we’re going to have a lot less traffic,” she said.

The Hangar should still be able to survive the loss though.

“I think we’ll be okay. We are hurting a little bit, there’s definitely a lot less business… we have a steady group of people coming in here at least once a week and get to-gos,” she said.

One LHU senior is upset by the closure but understands it.

Gretchen Yonkin, of Galeton, Pa., is remaining on campus during her final year due to standing obligations.

“It’s not ideal but it’s needed,” she said. “No one wants to do it but if we do it will keep people safe.”

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