Food & Drink

Bars Stay Afloat When Bona Students Leave for Summer

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Burton owner Chuck Collins sits behind his bar on Monday morning. Credits: Jake McCollum
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ALLEGANY, NY – Like many college students, those attending St. Bonaventure University are known for spending their weekend nights at local bars, making experiences that they will remember the rest of their lives. However, when the summer months roll around and those students go home, area bars and restaurants are left without their business.

The Burton, the Bird Cage, and Randy’s Up the River have something in common: They all are bar/restaurants within two miles of the St. Bonaventure campus. While they will certainly serve alcohol to Bonaventure students – who are 21, of course – two of them do not focus on the college demographic for their main sales so the summer break does not impact their business.

“We push more towards food although we do have a very wide selection of drinks,” said Randy Korkwicz, who has owned Randy’s, the riverside establishment, for 28 years.  “I have a lot of students on Sundays during the wintertime, but during the summer they won’t make or break me in sales.” 

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Korkwicz added that the amount of college students from Allegany and Olean who come back to the area are “basically a trade-off in business for the amount of people that left the area.”  His biggest month is actually May, when both Mother’s Day and St. Bonaventure’s graduation occur and when a boat launch across the street opens up.

A similar sentiment was echoed by Tony Marra, who has owned the Bird Cage for 25 years. 

“Most all my trade are local retired people; most of my customers I see are here between three to six days a week,” Marra said.

He added that he might see 10 students in one weekend during the academic year, so he counts no loss of income during the summer. 

“Sixty percent of my customers are local retirees," he said. "The other 40 are married people with kids.”

While Randy’s and the Bird Cage do not depend on student business to survive, the Burton does. Its Facebook page claims that it is “Bonaventure’s favorite bar since before your grandparents were in school.” 

Chuck Collins, who owns the Burton and E.B.’s Eatery with his sister Crissanne Nebin, typically sees 50 to 150 college students on a weekend night during the academic year.  When school is out, those numbers shrink, and the Burton and her twin Eatery struggle for business.

“Basically, at nighttime we’re dead unless we can think of something to bring more people in,”  Collins said. He added that typically there will be some customers after normal work hours, but by 9 p.m. the bar generally is empty. 

“It gives us both a break,” he said with a smile. “We try to do some stuff to bring in the local kids back from college, but that’s hard to do.”

While they cater to different demographics, the three local bars work hard for their business. Randy’s focuses on food. According to Korkowicz, his establishment has lines out the door for Fish Fry Fridays. It is well known for its 45-cent wings on Mondays, so much so that Korkowicz said  “an educated wing consumer” is his best customer. 

The Bird Cage relies on older regulars who come in several times per week for the comfortable atmosphere and reasonable prices. The Burton, famous for its Burton Burger, provides a party scene for St. Bonaventure students during the school year and the Eatery next door.

While all three establishments are unique, one thing among them remains the same: They’re all good places to grab a cold one. 

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