Winter break chills sales for Tuscaloosa businesses

With the holiday break fast approaching, businesses in Tuscaloosa are expecting to see a decline in sales as the majority of University of Alabama students will leave campus until next semester.

The area expecting to be hit the hardest is the Strip. Located just off campus on University Boulevard, the Strip includes more than 30 privately owned restaurants, retail stores, bars and other businesses.

Neil Zanthos, a manager at Buffalo Phil’s restaurant, estimates that 60 to 70 percent of the restaurant’s business comes from UA students and faculty. UA students make up closer to 75 percent of business for the Trunk, a retail store a few buildings down from the restaurant, store manager Tess Cockrell said. Grey Standridge, general manager of Rounders, said UA students bring in anywhere from 80 to 90 percent of their total business.

While the location of these businesses helps them during the school year, the holiday break is a slow time for them. Zanthos admitted that sales go down a good bit during the break, especially due to the location of the Strip.

“The place becomes a ghost town, and we’re smack in the middle of it,” Zanthos said.

However, Standridge said he thinks more students are staying in Tuscaloosa than in years past.

“We definitely see a decline [at Rounders] after graduation,” Standridge said. “There is a steady drop off, but we generally stay busy, although not nearly as much as during football season.”

Customers aren’t the only ones who stop coming in around the holidays. Businesses like Buffalo Phil’s employ students as well, some of whom go home for winter break. However, Zanthos is confident they will have enough staff to cover the season.

“We have a decent amount of local students and students whose homes are too far away for them to travel home during the break,” Zanthos said.

The UA students employed at the Trunk will work through Dec. 13 and return to work three days after the break ends. Cockrell also said the Trunk will not hire any additional seasonal workers.

Rounders will not be hiring any more employees either, but many of its UA student employees won’t be traveling home for the entire break.

“When people have jobs, they tend to go home for less time. We give people a week off here and another person a week off there. They are rotated around so things run a little smoother with more experienced workers,” Standridge said.

Along with trimming back on the winter staff, businesses are coming up with other ways to deal with the loss of business.

Buffalo Phil’s is closing from Dec. 21-31 and will resume normal hours starting Jan. 1. The Trunk will be closed just on Christmas Day. Rounders, however, will remain open throughout the holiday season.

“We are offering nightly specials on Monday through Thursday. We also have live music on the weekends to keep the people in town interested,” Standridge said.

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