Local businesses prepare for LSU weekend crowds

Katherine Martin

For local businesses, this isn’t just any other gameday weekend. As the “Game of the Century” draws nearer, businesses are busily preparing for the 102,000 fans making their way to Bryant-Denny for Alabama’s game versus LSU.

Craig Williams, general manager of Buffalo Phil’s, said the restaurant generally has 22 people working at one time but has added staff for this weekend’s game.

“We definitely stepped up,” he said. “We’re treating it like Penn State last year. We bought as much food and alcohol as we can, and we’re planning on a great weekend.”

Williams said he expects fans to start showing up today but has already noticed a few RVs and some Alabama gear around campus. On game days, Buffalo Phil’s sees a mixture of Alabama fans and fans from the opposing team.

“We see a lot of the same faces on game days,” Williams said, “but at the same time, we get a lot of opposing fans because of our location.”

David Jones, manager of Alabama Express on The Strip, said it’s hard to get a lot of people to work on game days.

“We’ll have some of our vendors come in and help supplement our staff,” Jones said. “We’ve got tons of product ready.”

Verna Rowland, manager of Bama Fever in Midtown Village, said their store will not be adding additional staff for Saturday.

“We’ll just be working extra hard,” Rowland said.

If the Tide defeats the Tigers on Saturday, like Rowland expects, she said the store will be swamped because they will have T-shirts with the score ready for fans.

“This is, to us, like an Iron Bowl,” she said, “but I think it’s going to be crazier than the Iron Bowl. I think it’ll be more like a National Championship. That’s how people are looking at it.”

David Jones, owner of Alabama Book Store, said he expects to be much busier, especially today and Friday, than any other gameday weekend.

“Last year’s Iron Bowl was a disaster because it was on the Friday after Thanksgiving,” he said, “but any other Iron Bowl or Tennessee or Florida game, this could top that.”

Alabama Express manager David Jones said the atmosphere surrounding the “Game of the Century” is what makes this game such a big deal.

As for selling gear for visiting LSU fans, well, they’re out of luck at these locations.

“We have anti-LSU gear in the store,” Jones said. “We’re loyalists, not opportunists.”

Rowland said Bama Fever had two LSU gameday shirts; one is already sold out.

“We will have nothing good here for LSU,” she said.

Like the other store, Alabama Book Store will not cater to the LSU crowd.

“We do have a generic ‘I was there’ shirt,” Jones said. “They might buy that.”

After a win, Williams said the atmosphere at Buffalo Phil’s is electrifying.

“Everybody’s in a great mood,” he said. “There’s usually not that many fights. With LSU, their fans usually come in large groups, and they’re here to party, win or lose. I imagine it’ll be pretty crazy when the game lets out at about 10:30.”