Working Athens’ Halloween: a restaurant perspective

Athens’ Halloween weekend typically brings in thousands to the city. As Court Street fills up, restaurant and bar lines are out the door. But does everyone benefit from the influx of people? People behind counter talk about what it’s like to work on block party night.

Preparing for the big night

Cynthia Abdul-Kabir is a manager at Insomnia Cookies. She has served the Halloween Block Party crowd baked goods for the past three years.

The block party is the biggest event that OU hosts each year. Just on the Facebook page, more than 1,500 people have said they were attending in 2015. Previous year’s reports tally in at 15 to 20,000 attendees.

During the festivities, Insomnia Cookies has a steady customer base, considering that they are open until 3 am. Abdul-Kabir said that the hot spot hours are from 9 pm to 11 pm when waves of people start coming in.

Because Insomnia Cookies is not a sit-down restaurant, space can sometimes be an issue.

“Last year, I worked during the day. Most of the day it was just starting up, but right around my closing time people were squeezing to get in,” she said.

Preparations for the big event started back in August.

“No one gets to call off [work]. We also try to let them [the staff] know that it’s going to be big waves and lots of people all night long,” she said.

Mainly, Abdul-Kabir has been working to prepare the drivers, since the restaurant typically delivers all night. Typically, drivers are sent out in the beginning of the night but once it gets too crazy delivers have to shut down.

“We can’t get our drivers off of Court Street. Even just to walk it takes too long,” she said.

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Athens’ Halloween Block Party 2014

“It’s a blurry, loud and wild night,”
Abdul-Kabir said.

 

Dressing the part

For sit-down restaurants, like Jackie O’s business feels like normal, except that the customer base and staff might come dressed in fairy wings or donning a fake mustache.

noland
Isaac Noland at Jackie O’s

Isaac Noland is a master’s journalism student at Ohio University, he worked part-time at Jackie O’s for two years, until the fire on Union Street closed the kitchen while the business made repairs. During his time at Jackie O’s, he worked in the kitchen for three Halloween Block Parties.

“Working in the restaurant end is not terrible because a lot of people don’t want to eat in their costumes. The bars can be really busy but food wise it’s not that bad at night,” he said.

The biggest challenge for Noland and others working Halloween Block Party night is having to miss out on the fun. Noland commented that it’s challenging sometimes to be working an event and not being able to partake in it, but at least he was able to dress up as Bob from Bob’s Burgers last year.

 

O'betty's
Phillip Szczepanski behind the counter at O’Betty’s

“It’s just another shift,” said Phillip Szczepanski, who is a manager at O’Betty’s Red Hot!

Szczepanski said that block party night is busy, but he’s seen worse.

“It’s a little slower than Homecoming Night, which is easily is one of the busiest nights of the year, but Halloween is right up there,” he said.

At O’Betty’s Red Hot! around 50% more supplies are ordered beforehand and everything is set-up for when the night crew gets in.

 

 Vandalism and loitering

While most of the restaurants and bars are open late, Donkey Coffee closes early—at 6 pm.

Chris Pyle has been the owner of Donkey Coffee for the past 13 years. He discovered that the increase in business just led to an increase in loitering and theft.

Halloween in Athens does have a reputation for getting rowdy. Most arrests are for disorderly conduct.

“We were open the first two years, but it was basically 200 people in here and no one was buying anything. They were just using the bathrooms and we had tons of stuff stolen and ruined,” he said.

Author: Samantha Peko

I'm a second year master's student at E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. I enjoy reading, cooking and dancing (despite the fact that I can't). I can be found on either the second or fourth floor of the Alden Library about every day of the week. I'm a serious nerd and I have a love for historical journalism. For my thesis I will be investigating stunt women journalists, think Nellie Bly, which will consume my every waking moment until I graduate--hopefully, by the end of this year.

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