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Local businesses anticipate UCLA community’s return to Westwood

Westwood (pictured) sees a substantial decrease in student population during the summer each year, meaning fewer potential customers for local businesses. Westwood businesses are preparing for the beginning of the school year by refreshing menus and carrying on annual traditions. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Christine Kao

Sept. 16, 2022 9:15 p.m.

Overcoming the summer slump, business owners and community leaders of Westwood prepare for the beginning of the school year by refreshing menus and carrying on annual traditions.

UCLA enrolls nearly 46,000 students from the fall to the spring quarter. This number drops during summer, with around 10,000 UCLA students and thousands of visiting students registered for summer courses, according to the UCLA Summer Sessions website.

International visitors and conference attendees boost Westwood’s foot traffic conversely but cannot compensate for the substantial shrink in the student population, said Andrew Lewis, vice president of the North Westwood Neighborhood Council. Local businesses lose potential customers in students and commuters actively in the area during the school year, he added.

Andrew Thomas, the executive director of Westwood Village Improvement Association, said the absence of students is particularly impactful on restaurants whose regulars consist heavily of them.

“They (the students) really bring a certain energy and vibrancy to the village that I think is very, very exciting, so they are missed when they are gone,” Thomas said.

Enzo’s Pizzeria, a restaurant on Weyburn Avenue, is one of the businesses largely supported by students during the academic year that loses a major part of its patrons in the summer, the restaurant’s owner and manager Paul Rossi said. He added that the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of delivery services have impeded interaction within the community, exacerbating the struggle confronting local businesses.

Rossi said he looks forward to welcoming people back and serving the diner’s newly developed specials for the upcoming school year, such as the chicken sandwich.

Allan Frei, the general manager of Broxton Brewery & Public House, said the restaurant also faces the challenge of dwindling sales in the summertime despite receiving generous greetings from the Village since the business first started.

Frei said the Broxton Brewery has had to adapt by cutting down on staff and adjusting its hours, while other businesses go on breaks before reopening in the fall.

“The swamp in the summer is very real,” Frei said. “There’s no getting around it besides just making light cuts here and there, reducing hours, and every summer we pull out of it, and then, of course, now we’re about to reach our busy season again.”

As students begin to return, Frei said the restaurant is currently refining plans and menu details for its Hawaiian-themed luau party that will take place Sept. 25, following the start of the fall quarter.

Locally driven events such as First Thursdays, a collaborative project between the WVIA and UCLA Strategic Communications, also help engage the local population over the summer, Thomas said.

“Events that cater to locals that bring them into our community really help us at all times of the year, not just the summer,” Thomas said. “But in the summer, it certainly helps to do a little bit more.”

[Related: UCLA First Thursdays brings Westwood together for jazz concert, ‘Soul’ screening]

Lewis said that by attracting students and guests into the village, First Thursdays indirectly yet effectively address the season’s issue of declined clientele.

With the school year around the corner, WVIA is preparing for its most celebrated event annually, the Westwood Village Block Party, Thomas said. Featuring activities, games and music, he said, the party introduces students to Westwood in a safe and organized way. Thomas added that the event not only presents dining and shopping options to folks but demonstrates the campus’s proximity to Westwood Village.

Thomas said he has observed strong momentum in the district through these co-hosted community events made possible by the outstanding partnership between the WVIA and UCLA.

“It’s really an exciting time in Westwood, so I’m very, very bullish about the future and about all the great destinations that will be available for people who choose to come to us,” Thomas said.

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Christine Kao | Photographer
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