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SU Student Return Brings Hope for Local Restaurants

James Corrigan

The fall semester at Syracuse University got underway Monday with thousands of students coming to the city to learn in-person.  The local restaurant community is happy to have students back, but cautious about the COVID-19 threat they might bring.

Syracuse restaurants are buzzing, just as they’ve been for years thanks to the presence of SU students. But when the pandemic hit in March, silence. For Alejandro Gonzalez, manager of Margarita’s on Walton Street, that meant sacrifice.

“We laid off about probably twelve or thirteen people,” he said.

As SU begins in person learning this week, eateries are giddy at the return of free spending students through their doors, making up a large part of their revenue. For many local restaurants, students can make up from 10% to up to 40% of business.

But Mary Anne Stella, manager of the popular XO Taco on E. Fayette St., is cautious.

“I like to be positive, but it’s scary when you see things like last night," she said.

The recent gathering on the SU quad and subsequent suspension of 23 SU freshmen for violations of safety protocols gives Stella cause for concern.

“Kids are being kids, and I can understand that that a desire to do so, but we have to keep our eye on the ball and how well New York has done, and think about everybody,” she said.

As schools across the country have seen outbreaks and have been forced to cancel in person classes, just one misstep at SU could sink not just the academic year, but the local economy as well. However, Angie Knox, general manager of Phoebie’s on E. Genesee St., remains optimistic that the students and community will remain safe.

“I am definitely looking on the positive side of things. The percentages in New York state have been very low as far as the virus infections, so I think if everyone can just be smart, we can get through this,” she said.

And if that happens, Syracuse’s favorite restaurants will buzz all throughout the year.