“Nobody knew the store was closing,” said Alzahrani. “People showed up in uniforms to work their shift that day. Food was prepped and on the line. And they shut us down, immediately, with no notice. We weren’t even opening that day.”
Alzahrani added that the Tex Mex restaurant, located in the Shoppes at Legacy Park, recently began focusing on building sales, marketing, and catering. Even the corporate marketing department came to Tuscaloosa last month to layout an entire plan for the year 2020. She said it was shocking and upsetting, especially because there was no notice. However, Chuy’s did offer $15 an hour to help tear down the restaurant.
Employees were told that sales were just too low to keep the store open. That same day, two other Chuy’s closed in the state of Alabama. The Chuy’s in Tuscaloosa opened in October 2015.
Iguana Grill, located in Midtown Village, also closed in November. The Mexican eatery opened its doors in Tuscaloosa in 2007.
“I was called at 10 p.m. the night before they closed,” said Danni Beatty, a former server at Iguana Grill. “[I was] told that the owner did not renew a contract and the restaurant was closing. As far as I could tell, the other servers didn’t expect it.”
Beatty was able to secure another job in a matter of weeks.
Dotson’s Burger Spot closed its doors on Nov. 26 – just days after posting a note on Facebook about the decision.
“It is with much thought and sadness that we have decided to close the current doors of Dotson’s Burger Spot… We are hoping this opportunity allows for the growth of our company,” the post read.
With all the recent closings, it is hard to not feel like something is wrong with Tuscaloosa eateries. Are people choosing to eat at home more? Is Title Town too saturated with restaurants?
“I can start by saying that there have been a few restaurants across the city that have closed recently. All the restaurants that have closed have done so for various reasons that can’t be narrowed down to as simple of an answer as, ‘people are eating out less,’” said City of Tuscaloosa Communications Director Richard Rush. “I have not seen any data to show that people are eating out less, and there are some restaurants in Tuscaloosa that are doing very well.”
“Past data shows that Americans are eating out more not less,” said Brenden Moore, Executive Director in Office of Urban Development. “This is not a red flag.”
There are over 170 restaurants in Tuscaloosa, with more new restaurants scheduled to open their doors in coming weeks and months.
Golden Rule Barbecue is expected to open in the spot formerly held by Mooyah. And Sage Juice Bar will offer juices, fruit bowls and the like in the morning, tapas and other fare for lunch, and then transform into a speakeasy serving craft cocktails at night. Word is that popular food truck Local Roots plans to put down actual roots with a brick-and-mortar restaurant this coming year.
For now, it seems, Tuscaloosa’s vibrant dining scene is destined to keep shining brightly in 2020.
Brianna Duncan is a junior at the University of Alabama majoring in news media with a minor in geography. She is originally from Slapout, Ala.