Small businesses stunted in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

The Houndstooth on Monday, Sept. 7 for bingo night. Erin Sundberg/Lariat

ABC licensed facilities can re-open as of Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 6:01 p.m. in response to Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s Mayor Walt Maddox’s executive order announced on Sept. 5th. Although, bars and restaurants still have to stop serving alcoholic beverages at 11 p.m.

There are stipulations to the new order. Facilities can only re-open at a 50% capacity with a maximum of 100 people and they must be seated at a table at all times. The Strip, consisting of bars, restaurants and retail shopping stores now uses its street parking for pedestrians so social distancing can be enforced.

The Strip is located on University Blvd. in Tuscaloosa. This street houses the majority of bars in the Tuscaloosa area. Typically, The Strip is lively and upbeat until 3 a.m. every day, but has been a ghost town when the sun goes down the last two weeks.

The original ordinance from Mayor Maddox required bars to close for two full weeks and every student and staff member coming back to campus at the University of Alabama was required to get tested for COVID-19. 310 out of 29,938 students tested positive for COVID-19 and were not allowed on campus. Isolation housing has been provided for students if necessary.

Students attending the University of Alabama have returned to school for the fall semester. Every single student was required to get tested for COVID-19 prior to arriving on campus. These students have come from all over the United States to return to school.

Data released by the University of Alabama consistently shows a daily decline of positive COVID-19 cases. Now that students are back on campus, they are being randomly selected to get tested again for COVID-19. Students are allowed to decline, however, it is strongly recommended to comply.

Most classes are being offered online for the continuation of the semester. There are a few select programs that cannot be online. For example, the nursing majors are required to attend classes.

The University of Alabama relies on football season to fund every other sport, as well as the small businesses on game days. College football is starting late and ending early due to COVID-19. Employment in these fields has been limited for college students.

“I wanted to get a job as a bartender when I came back to school but then COVID happened and no one is hiring,” said Anabel Morales, a senior at the University of Alabama.

Bars and restaurants are reluctant to hire new staff in these unpredictable times. Balancing supply and demand is difficult during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Recently, I announced that I was exploring a run for Mayor of Tuscaloosa due to concerns with @WaltMaddox response to COVID-19,” said CJ Pearson, a conservative political activist and freshman at the University of Alabama, in a tweet on Sept. 5th. “Since then, he has announced that he will rescind his order that shuttered bars and restaurants and threatened the survival of our local economy.”

Typically, bars and restaurants will hire seasonal staff for football season. Alabama football brings thousands of people to the Tuscaloosa area for every home game. The Crimson Tide’s record attendance is 101,821 people and they are expected to have their first game on Sept. 26 against the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri.

“I was convinced we were going to have to be closed for at least another week,” said Olivia Hodges, a bartender at The Houndstooth, which is a sports bar located on The Strip.

Now that the bars are re-opened, there have been lines to get into the establishments. Again, they must remain at 50% capacity, even during the peak season of football. These stipulations are hurting small businesses in the Tuscaloosa area.

Alabama football will have their first home game on Oct. 3 against Texas A&M. They will have a shortened season with only ten in-conference teams. College football is on the rocks. There is one game scheduled on Aug. 29 which is considered week zero meaning the conferences still have time to back out of playing football due to the pandemic.

Not having a full football season is stunting the economy in Tuscaloosa. Bars and restaurants are struggling to stay open and their major money-making season of football is possibly going to get canceled. Mayor Maddox is threatening the livelihood of thousands by continuing these restrictions on indoor dining.

Erin Sundberg, Editor-at-Large in Alabama