Business Owners Speak About State Patty’s Day

It’s that time of year again, when a dialogue opens among students and community members in State College about responsibility and alcohol. One argument that consistently springs up in the midst of the conversation is that State Patty’s Day spurs local business and brings money flow into the area. But how true is that? It’s no secret that some local businesses capitalize on the holiday by selling State Patty’s merchandise.

What about the downtown dining and bar scene? Is it difficult to accommodate so many students with drunk munchies or to deal with disruptive conduct? And more importantly, do they see a major boost in business?

Not according to Mike Desmond, owner of Hotel State College & Company, which includes The Corner Room, The Allen Street Grill, and Zeno’s, among others.

“The liquor stores and the beer distributors might be doing better, but licensed establishments aren’t getting as much business,” he said.

The first year it was held, State Patty’s caught many downtown hospitality centers by surprise, Desmond said. Since then, his establishments have taken measures to prepare for the holiday, such as adopting a firm policy of eliminating anything that could appear as encouragement and increasing staffing.

“We doubled our staffing, primarily for doubling our efforts to assess people’s sobriety and attitude at the door before they entered,” he said. “Which we already do 365 days a year.”

This year the Hotel State College establishments will also be nixing all happy hours and bar specials so as not to contribute — or be perceived as contributing.

However, Desmond doesn’t have anything against students showing their pride. In fact, he’d like to see students step up as leaders to turn SPD into something more productive for the community, be it a focus on arts, sports, or charity.

While Desmond’s establishments don’t see a substantial increase in business and take measures to avoid behavior problems, Jack Schoenholtz, co-owner of Irving’s, said he hasn’t had any problems on SPD outside of handling more customers.

“That’s just what happens when you have an event centered around downtown like that, it makes you busier,” Schoenholtz said.

“I live in State College and I think it’s gotten out of hand,” he added. “But I’m glad to see people have started to turn it in the other direction. I think a lot of student groups are trying to make it into a positive thing.”

These two differing experiences shouldn’t be surprising. Irving’s has more of a café atmosphere, serving food quickly. The restaurants owned by Hotel State College feature sit-down dining, which is not exactly the type of thing most drunk college kids are looking for.

Desmond also mentioned he has seen the hard alcohol-beer ratio of drinking culture flip over the 25 years he’s owned Hotel State College. More students seem to drink liquor and his bars are marketed as “beer” bars. He may not be seeing more business on SPD, but, like Schoenholtz, Desmond sees another positive coming out of the holiday.

“The great thing coming out of this is a dialogue among the students and community about drinking and responsibility,” he said.

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Matthew D'Ippolito

I'm a senior majoring in print journalism with minors in political science and music technology. I'm from the small town of Pennsburg, about an hour north of Philly. I hope to one day work as a music reporter for Rolling Stone. I am single and looking to mingle.

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