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While the beginning of the school year is a perennial highlight for Penn students, the return of undergraduates to campus elicits mixed reactions from their University City neighbors.

Owners of bars and restaurants near campus say the summer months are less lucrative than the academic year.

Smokey Joe’s owner Paul Ryan remarked that the end of August means his “angels are back.”

Kevin Kearney, owner of The Blarney Stone, said over the summer, “we do about half the business that we do during the school year.”

“There aren’t many businesses that are unhappy when students come back,” Ryan said.

However, not everyone in West Philadelphia is excited about the increase in nightlife activity marked annually by New Student Orientation and the beginning of the school year. Both Kearney and Ryan spoke of a distinct divide between students and residents at their bars.

Barry Grossbach, a director of the Spruce Hill Community Association, explained that there are occasionally “students who aren’t appreciative of the mixed neighborhood environment,” which can frustrate full-time residents.

The Spruce Hill neighborhood extends from 38th Street to 46th Street and from Market Street to Woodland Avenue.

According to Mark Young, another SHCA director, parking proves to be the biggest point of contention between students and residents.

He said residents who routinely use their cars are frustrated by students who bring their cars to school and hang onto on-street parking spots for long periods of time without moving. Cars left unattended for long periods of time prove easy targets for break-ins, he added.

Young remarked that five of his neighbors have moved from the area as a result of parking problems.

SHCA director Al Madrid characterized Penn students’ presence as “a mixed blessing.” He explained that despite students’ frequent and loud nights out, he is glad to have them around because of the businesses they attract.

Grossbach echoed this sentiment and explained that “many of the things residents enjoy are attributed to the presence of Penn students.” Because students provide an “economic engine” for the community, Grossbach said that “it’d be ludicrous to think that they’re unwelcome.”

Madrid said that the further west of 40th Street people luve, the less they will interact with students.

However, many Penn students create positive relationships with the wider community, Grossbach said. He explained that community members are grateful when student groups contribute to cleaning up public areas or help to tutor kids.

In an effort to improve relationships between residents and students, Grossbach said both parties should adopt “self-policing” attitudes. People moving into the community “have to expect university cultures,” he said. But the reciprocal is that students must respect their neighbors and make “recognizable efforts to keep the area clean.”

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