This past year, downtown Auburn acquired a variety of new restaurants, such as BurgerFi and Uncle Maddio’s, but now, it’s losing one.
Zazu Gastropub is moving from its downtown location on East Magnolia Avenue to a new Opelika location in on 112 S. 8th St.
“There’s a building,” said Graham Hage, owner and executive chef at Zazu Gastropub. “It was built by William Samford about 140 years ago. It’s just a complete shell right now. We have to do all the interior stuff. The outside is mostly done.”
The old location closed at the end of June, and Hage said he hopes to open the new location sometime between January and March.
“We had a huge increase in our rent and looked at some places in downtown Auburn, but nothing really fit what we were looking for, so we decided to look a little more in [the] Opelika area,” Hage said.
Hage is also the owner of Halftime, and he said some employees have taken jobs there until the new location opens. Tavaris Washington, line cook for Zazu Gastropub, is one of the employees who moved to Halftime.
“I’m kind of excited about it actually,” Washington said about moving the restaurant to Opelika. “New location, new opportunities, a lot of new people to feed.”
Washington said many of the buildings in Opelika are historic and have a vintage, rustic look to them, so they plan on trying to keep as many of those elements as possible for the new location.
“It will be like a fine dining experience and a pub atmosphere,” Washington said.
Hage said once the new location opens they will need more employees.
“The response from the Opelika side is great,” Hage said. “They’re really looking forward to it and can say nothing but nice things about it, so we’re excited about it.”
Hage said many of his regular customers at Zazu Gastropub said they were sad Zazu Gastropub was moving locations.
“I would like to thank Auburn students and the community for supporting us for seven years, and ask if they would still do the same when we’re in Opelika,” Hage said.
There is speculation a new Panera Bread Company may open in the old Zazu location in the future.
“We are looking at that location, but it’s still in the developmental (stage),” said Mark Jinnette, general manager at the Opelika Panera location. “There’s a process that corporate goes through when they’re looking at locations and we have done a couple of the things that needed to be done in that process, but it’s not official yet.”
If Panera Bread decides to open up a new location in downtown Auburn, Jinnette said they would still keep the Opelika Panera location as well.
“The student population has grown and there’s been a lot of changes on campus as far as parking and that sort of stuff,” Jinnette said. “A lot of the student business that we used to get, we don’t have as much of now because it’s just not easy to, you know, get out of class, get to your car, get over here and go back. The Tiger Transit doesn’t have a stop anywhere near us.”
Although it is not official Panera will open a new location, Jinnette said if they do, they would be hiring new employees, including Auburn students.