Students returning to UC Berkeley campus add ‘vibrancy and vitality’ to local businesses

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Sunny Shen/Senior Staff
According to Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner, UC Berkeley students who have chosen to return to campus or live nearby are 'incredibly important' for Berkeley businesses.

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As more students choose to return to campus for the fall semester, some businesses in Berkeley have seen an increase in customers.

According to a Berkeley News article, a total of 2,200 students will be living in campus housing for the fall semester. Students who have chosen to return to campus or live nearby are “incredibly important” for Berkeley businesses, Downtown Berkeley Association CEO John Caner said.

“It’s been a really, really hard spring and summer for a number of Downtown businesses with Cal being remote,” Caner said. “The students provide a lot of vibrancy and vitality.”

In addition to campus, Berkeley City College and Berkeley High School are operating remotely for the fall semester, leading to a significant cumulative impact on Downtown businesses. Now that some students have returned, businesses are doing everything they can to welcome them back, according to Caner.

To increase support for local businesses, the Downtown Berkeley Association launched its “Dine 3 Times” promotion from July 20 to Aug. 30, inviting customers to dine three times in Downtown Berkeley to receive a limited-edition poster and be entered in a drawing to win a free meal.

The poster encouraged customers to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines such as maintaining 6 feet of distance from others, wearing masks and getting tested. Caner added that students who returned to Berkeley were showing high awareness of abiding by public safety guidelines while ordering takeout and using outdoor dining services.

“It’s about communicating about being safe but doing it in a fun way,” Caner said. “I myself have been enjoying going to a lot of our restaurants, and they’re following the proper protocols.”

The Berkeley location of ice-cream store CREAM is happy to have students back and is seeing a relative increase in customers, said co-founder and president Gus Shamieh. According to Shamieh, the safety of all staff, customers and community members remains the top priority for the business.

To adjust to the pandemic’s unprecedented circumstances, CREAM is primarily focused on third-party delivery and increasing delivery options, such as adding online ordering.

“We understand that people are not leaving their homes and feel safer that things are delivered to them,” Shamieh said. “We take all the precautions in the store to make sure that food preparations are safe.”

For other local businesses such as Top Dog, which rely more heavily on orders from families than students, operations have remained largely the same, according to Top Dog co-owner Renie Riemann.

Riemann added that although the pandemic will likely determine how the rest of the school year proceeds, it would be “wonderful” if in-person classes could resume.

“It’s always nice to have the students back probably because I am Cal alum and always loved returning back for the academic year,” Riemann said in an email. “They are always welcome here.”

Contact Zoe Chen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @zoe_chen820.