TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Challenges remain for local businesses trying to stay afloat due to staffing shortages. Some business owners are hopeful they can turn things around now that the fall semester at the University of Alabama has begun.

Pete Zimmer is the owner of Ajian Sushi in downtown Tuscaloosa. He says it has been a bumpy ride for his business trying to find staffing.

“It’s tough and obviously it impacts your sales volume, and it impacts your bottom line,” Zimmer said. “Once we get staffed up, we go through the process. I think this semester I have 9 new employees so while I have 40 people standing in line to get sushi, I have to slow things down and train people.”

Zimmer says since last summer he had to close early some nights and close on Sunday for lack of staff. The business owner says the good news is he was able to hire new workers but admits there is still more work to be done. All in all, he is glad UA students are back.

“Well it’s becoming a little bit of a weight off my shoulder, but we are not quite there in training so,” Zimmer said. “I am glad we’ve been able to make hires because students are back.”

Jim Page is the Director of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama. He says staffing shortages in the workforce have been a common problem facing many restaurants, bars and hotels.

“Workforce is every business’s challenge right now and has been for a while,” Page said “Obviously everything we went through with the pandemic made it really worse. It has really been seen in the hospitality industry and has been tough with bars and hotels and restaurants have struggled more than most.”

Page says that in the past two years, some businesses in Tuscaloosa closed permanently due to staffing shortages. But he also says it is encouraging that new businesses are opening such as the new Alamite Hotel which will open in September. It features an upscale restaurant and also will have a rooftop lounge.