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

    Local businesses attempt to reopen

    Local businesses attempt to reopen

    More than seven months have passed since homes and businesses in Tuscaloosa were devastated by the April storms. Yet, with the exception of debris removal, some of the hardest hit areas look relatively the same as they did on April 28.

    Many business owners and corporations have been ready to rebuild their businesses and retail stores for many months now, but previously occupied lots sit vacant and many heavily damaged buildings are still standing.

    “From the day the tornado happened, we were committed to reopening our restaurant in Tuscaloosa,” said Rick Baquera, director of operations for Schlotzsky’s Deli.  “As a matter of fact, we retained all our employees that were working for us before the tornado.”

    Rather than allow Schlotzsky’s employees to find new jobs, the company has paid employees the same salary they were making previously while encouraging them to volunteer in the community.

    Now, many months later, the restaurant finally has the green light to begin construction.

    “From my latest understanding, we have finally gotten through the zoning process,” he said.  “The city updated their zones and we had to wait for them to finish that before we could rebuild.”

    Although the restaurant had to wait for many months to start rebuilding, plans have now been approved and construction will begin in the near future.

    “The construction of the new Schlotzsky’s has already been bid to a contractor,” Baquera said.  “We are just waiting for the insurance to approve the project and then we will begin construction.”

    Although the restaurant applied for a building permit soon after the tornado, it took months for it to be approved.

    “When the tornado hit, we immediately began working with the city to get a permit to rebuild,” Baquera said.  “At the time, the city was looking at how they could update the building codes, and doing a lot of rezoning.  It initially took about 30 days before they began reviewing building permits. It wasn’t that Schlotzsky’s did not want to reopen its restaurant; we just had to wait for the city. It was just a long approval process.”

    Baquera said he expects construction to begin soon with the new Schlotzsky’s opening in March or April of 2012.

    Other businesses, such as Chuck E. Cheese’s, would like to reopen in Tuscaloosa but have to find a new location to move into or wait for the previous one to be rebuilt.

    Although the company has definite plans to reopen its Tuscaloosa location in the future, the company is unsure presently about when and where this will happen.

    “I’m not sure about the timetable for reopening in Tuscaloosa because of all the devastation,” said Brenda Holloway, spokesperson for CEC Entertainment, parent company of Chuck E. Cheese.  “We just have to find a good site for it.”

    Holloway said the company is considering different options for the new location and will reopen when a suitable building is found.

    “We aren’t exactly sure yet where the new location will be,” she said.  “We are looking for the best spot available.  We have stated that we are rebuilding but we are looking at all the different avenues out there.”

    Students expressed their eagerness to see some Tuscaloosa businesses reopen.

    “I’m really excited about some of these businesses reopening,” said Jacob Carlson, a freshman majoring in finance.  “I really miss Krispy Kreme donuts.  Tuscaloosa hasn’t been the same without it.”

    Others expressed frustration with how long it is taking for businesses to start rebuilding.

    “The city or whoever is keeping these businesses from building needs to step up their game,” said Mark Reeves, a sophomore majoring in public relations.  “The city is losing huge tax revenues while all these properties sit vacant.”



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