Bloomington businesses faced a new COVID-19 challenge last weekend — the loss of IU’s commencement.
Commencement weekend usually brings a flow of alumni and families of graduates to Bloomington’s restaurants, hotels and other businesses. Without these consumers, both big and small businesses stand to lose revenue and face-to-face time with graduates and families.
Commencement usually turns a huge profit for The Village Deli, located on Kirkwood Avenue, manager Rebecca Lagle said. She said the restaurant will likely lost more than $16,000 last weekend.
“Normally graduation brings in family members of students," Lagle said. "The whole family would typically come have breakfast at The Village Deli.”
The restaurant is offering carry-out and delivery for now, but Lagle said during the pandemic, the business does not always break even for the day. The cost of employees and supplies sometimes outweighs the day’s revenue, she said.
“We are doing everything we can on our end to allocate the funds that we do have accordingly just to keep the deli open,” Lagle said.
Restaurants and small businesses aren’t the only ones affected.
The Biddle Hotel, located in the Indiana Memorial Union, normally sees an increase in reservations on commencement weekend, said Mike Campbell, associate director of operations at the IMU. The hotel is usually fully booked about a year in advance, making commencement on of the biggest revenue-generating weekends, Campbell said.
“It is the busiest weekend on the calendar by far,” he said.
Commencement weekend catering and dining event were canceled, which Campbell said also negatively affected IU Catering, IU's catering business in the IMU.
He said the IMU likely lost more than half a million dollars last weekend.
Ed Schwartzman, co-owner of BuffaLouie’s at the Gables, said he misses the social aspect of commencement weekend.
“I love when the kids come in with their gowns,” he said. “I love taking pictures with them.”
BuffaLouie’s has increased foot traffic on commencement weekend because it’s located next to the Sample Gates, Schwartzman said.
He said he posts some of the pictures on Facebook.
Schwartzman said he sits down and talks with customers a lot. He said sometimes, he will have a graduate and their family come in and tell him that they first came to the restaurant while on a campus visit.
“They’ll say, ‘We had our first meal here, and today is going to be our last,’” Schwartzman said.
He didn't see that this year.
“We’ve lost that cycle.”