Some Butler County businesses hurting because of disappearing traffic in bitter cold

While it’s too early to know what impact Wednesday’s and Thursday’s bitterly cold temperatures will have on residents’ utility bills, local businesses are recovering from “a pretty painful” two days of sales.

The unseasonably cold temperatures and late-week snow closed area school districts for three days and forced many residents to stay home instead of dining out. Several Butler County restaurants closed Wednesday because of the bitter weather, and many of them that opened reported softer sales.

MORE: What do those who work outside do in dangerously cold temperatures?

“It definitely hurt,” said James Wilder, general manager of the Lee’s Famous Recipe on North Verity Parkway in Middletown.

“And once that business is lost, it’s gone.”

Because of its three-piece chicken special, Wednesday typically is one of the busiest days at Lee’s, Wilder said. He said sales were down 10 percent on Wednesday. And sales were slow the last two weekends because of snow storms, he said.

“That killed us,” he said, in part because many churches cancelled services. There were days, he said, when business didn’t warrant the staff, so he sent some employees home early.

MORE: Butler County fire shows dangers to first responders in extreme conditions: ‘It’s a tough job to do in this weather’

Sanket Patel, the manager of Middletown Fine Wine & Spirits, said Wednesday’s business was “a little slow,” but most of their sales are wholesale to local bars and restaurants. Patel said he expects business to be busy this weekend because of Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Those restaurants that closed probably made the right decision if the owners thought it was unsafe for employees and customers, said Homa Moheimani, communications director for the Ohio Restaurant Association. She said social media allows restaurants to communicate quickly with their customers.

Innclement weather typically benefits those restaurants that offer delivery services, Moheimani said.

Mel Kurtzera, co-owner of West Central Wine in Middletown, said several downtown businesses were closed on Wednesday, so sales at Central Wine were “a little better” than normal.

“We were kind of the only game in town,” she said.

Duke Energy officials said it’s too early to determine if customers’ utility bills will be higher because of the cold snap. Sally Thelen, spokeswoman for Duke, said to avoid a high-bill surprise, customers can monitor and manage their energy use, even when temperatures drop for extended periods.

Thelen suggested ways customers can monitorenergy use:

• Check the number of days in your billing cycle. Most bills are for 30 days, but there are times when the billing cycle is shorter or longer. If there are more days in the bill, it could be higher.

• Look at the electric and/or natural gas usage chart to see how the current month’s usage compares to the previous 12 months. Energy usage closely aligns with outside temperatures, so compare current month’s usage to the same time last year or a month with similar temperatures.

• Log in to an online account to view your hourly and/or daily usage. Identifying spikes throughout the month – by day or even hour – can show what appliances and behaviors are increasing the bill.

Here is a forecast for the weekend and early next week:

Today: Partly cloudy skies with highs in the lower 30s.

Sunday: Highs in the mid-50s.

Monday: Highs in the upper 50s or low 60s.

SOURCE: Storm Center 7 meteorologists

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