Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Lai Lai set to close by this summer


By the end of this semester, students will have to look elsewhere for Chinese food options on The Strip. Lai-Lai’s lease, which is owned by the University, is expiring, meaning the business having to vacate the property.

Jennifer Chen, the manager of Lai-Lai, said the University sent Lai-Lai a letter in November 2010 notifying them of the expiration of their lease.

The letter stated the lease will end March 31. Lai-Lai’s original last day open was going to be March 27.

Since then, the University has decided to extend Lai-Lai’s lease for another month, so the closing won’t happen until the beginning of the summer.

“Now we’re unsure of the closing date,” Chen said. “Most likely it will be at the beginning of the summer. We’ll be able to finish out the semester with the students now.”

Chen said they know the University wants the property, but beyond that they weren’t given any more information.

“[The University] had purchased it, and we’re not sure what they’re planning on doing with the property, but because they want it back we’re unable to renew our lease,” Chen said.

Lai-Lai, which opened in July of 1998, is in its thirteenth year of business on The Strip.

Chen said she was unsure of the status of other businesses on The Strip, but when Pepito’s and Pita Pit, which are located on either side of Lai Lai’s, were called employees at both restaurants said there are no plans for closing or moving.

Before Chen knew that she had until the end of the semester instead of the end of March, she said she wasn’t sure if Lai-Lai would be doing something special on March 27, the previous closing day.

“Right now we’re just slowly letting our customers know,” Chen said. “If we do something special, we’ll announce it. Right now we’re just focusing on moving.”

Lai-Lai does plan on re-opening in the future, Chen said, but a location still has to be found.

“We want our customers and Tuscaloosa to know that we’re making plans to reopen, but we’re looking for a place right now,” Chen said.

Cathy Andreen, the director of media relations for the University, explained the process behind the expired lease and University-owned property.

“The University purchased the building where Lai-Lai is located in 2007 and agreed to honor the leases that were already in place,” Andreen said. “Lai-Lai’s lease was originally negotiated with the previous owner.”

Now that the lease is up, the University will be offering a Request for Proposals, which is the opportunity for any entity that may wish to rent the space to submit a proposal. Lai-Lai will get a chance to submit an RFP to regain that location as well, Andreen said.

“RFPs are advertised publicly,” Andreen said. “The RFP will be sent to Lai-Lai when it is ready and they may submit a proposal.”

Andreen said the proposal must include detailed information about how the space would be used, any renovations or work that the renter would do to the space, the amount of rent they are willing to pay and a description of how the business would benefit the University community.

In reference to other businesses not experiencing the same closing as Lai-Lai, Andreen said the businesses operating on the University’s property on The Strip have different lease agreements and they expire at different times. Lai-Lai’s lease is currently expiring.

Chen said she wanted to take this chance to thank all of Lai-Lai’s customers over the years.

“We wanted to thank all of our customers for their support over the years, UA students and faculty and especially the international Chinese students who have been a big part of our customer base over the years and the locals for making us a part of their community,” Chen said. “We just wanted to express our gratitude towards them.”

Jenae Stainer, a senior majoring in social work, said she has been in the on-campus organization Students for a Democratic Society for four years now and, after every meeting, SDS would go to Lai-Lai for tofu.

“I think that Lai-Lai is a valuable local business that cares about its customers,” Stainer said. “And its customers care about them. I’m not sure why they’re being singled out if there have been no problems with them in the past.”


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