BUCKEYE LAKE – While some lake area businesses enjoyed strong patronage during the Fourth of July weekend, others endured slumped sales as the lake remains at low pool in anticipation of the State of Ohio replacing the lake’s 4.1-mile earthen dam during the next five years. ODNR and other state representatives insist the lake remain at low pool to reduce pressure on the dam until it’s replaced. Unfortunately, the boat traffic that local clubs and businesses rely upon to attract customers during the summer is severely restricted in the process.
“We are limping along like everyone else at about 50 percent from last year,” said Buckeye Lake Winery owner Tracy Higginbotham. “The community is very supportive though.” He said the BLASST fireworks display benefited his business Friday night, but otherwise the loss of boat traffic cost him about half his business from last year.
Papa Boo’s was able to purchase land for more parking, which general manager Jeff Craiglow said made up for some of the loss in boat traffic. “We were thrilled with the outcome on all three days,” he said. “We were a bit concerned Friday due to the rain but it let up just in time for things to dry off, the band played outside, and the Buckeye Lake fireworks went off with a packed house at Papa Boo’s.” Craiglow said Saturday and Sunday were busy from the time Papa Boos opened. “We were steady each day in the beginning and by mid afternoon, all three parking lots were filled with cars, motorcycles, and golf carts. Purchasing the additional land was the biggest and best thing we could have done with what we are facing at the lake,” he said.
“We’ll survive without a doubt,” Craiglow said. “It will take doing things differently and thinking outside the box on events and entertainment.” He said he and (owner) Jason Biggs have stressed this to all employees: “In the end it will be up to us and how we treat our guests and the service they were provided and the product they were given that will make them come back,” Craiglow said. “I believe we have shown that and I’m very thankful for the patrons who continue to experience Papa Boo’s.”
For clubs with limited parking, the weekend was bleak. “We were about $10,000 down from last year,” said Island House owner John Doneff. He said the Island House has limited land parking and the lack of boat traffic was very detrimental to what should have been a very strong weekend for business. “It cost me 10 grand, the third through the sixth (of July),” Doneff said.
Doneff said boats visiting the Island House typically have five to seven people aboard, while most road vehicles have one or two.
“My doors are still open,” Doneff said, but he’s disgusted with the way ODNR has the situation. “The State of Ohio has a vendetta against the lake and the people on the lake,” he said. Doneff said he appreciates the efforts of a local church, whose congregation is meeting at restaurants around the lake, helping to support them while the lake is basically unusable.