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Businesses relying on LSU's on-campus presence uneasy heading into fall

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BATON ROUGE - Just steps from LSU's campus, Bengals and Bandits should be gearing up for its busiest time of the year.

"When you put 100,000 people in the stadium and 50,000 outside the stadium, those are big weekends for us," Patrick Wilkerson said.

However, amid COVID-19 and with SEC plans still unknown, the typical cash flow that comes with football season isn't something Wilkerson necessarily expects.

"It is a stressful situation," Wilkerson said. "Just having the uncertainty of what's going to happen with football season and what's going to happen with LSU's campus."

Wilkerson and many other fans are holding out hope for some sort of football season, but with the calendar approaching August and the SEC still mum, he says as a business owner, time is running out to make decisions.

"Do we order 1000 masks," Wilkerson wonders. "Or do we wait to see if it's going to happen later? There are a lot of products that we have to make a decision on in the next couple of weeks, at the latest, to be prepared for those first couple of games if it's going to happen."

While it is a huge part of business, football season isn't the only thing that impacts the shop's sales. Campus life also plays a factor in business.

"If there are going to be less people on campus, less students, then inevitably we'll have less customers," Wilkerson said.

Traffic on campus won't be as high with LSU still planning to hold some classes virtually. Wilkerson says the shop was prepared to see no students on campus this fall, adding a hybrid model will still have an impact.

"It definitely affects our year," Wilkerson said. "But in being smart business owners, we've done our best to try to adapt and change, and plan for the unexpected."

That planning includes looking at both the best and worst-case scenarios, for both the football season and campus life, to make sure Bengals and Bandits can survive past the fall.

"If there is no football, what do we need to do to make sure business is strong enough to endure that," Wilkerson said.

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