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Working a reopening on Main Gate Square

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People gather in front of Frog & Firkin to celebrate during the University of Arizona 2020 graduation weekend. Courtesy of Paloma Colación.

Taking a stroll through Main Gate Square has taken on a new meaning in the past couple months and so has the topic of reopening. Places of gathering such as bars and restaurants have grappled with reopening since Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order expired Friday, May 15 — the same day as the University of Arizona’s commencement ceremony.

Managers and other employees at open bars and restaurants at Main Gate worked to define a new normal for this reopening.

Brittney Gregory, a front of house manager at Frog & Firkin, had faith in the new precautions staff had to take.

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“I honestly haven’t been too concerned because we are all very careful here," Gregory said. "We’re all very good to wash our hands, to maintain our distance. We wear the masks, we glove up, all of those things. We take our temperatures everyday when we come in, we take them when we leave. We’re all very cognizant of all the things that are going on. I haven’t really been nervous or anything."

However, precautions and safety required customer cooperation, which could be difficult at times, according to Gregory.

“That has been something we’ve had to be very careful about," Gregory said. "My general manager calls it 'playing the pandemic police' in that we have to remind our guests that they can only have groups of 10, that they can’t put the tables together. They can’t be wandering around and touching things. That’s what we have to do, but not everyone has been as receptive as we would like. We enforce the rules, whether they want to follow them or not."

Despite these precautions, graduation weekend proved itself to be a challenge. Pictures taken during the celebrations depicted people gathered on sidewalks and balconies, but Gregory insisted one of the gatherings in question happened on the sidewalk in front of Frog & Firkin.

“We were trying to seat a larger group and there were more than 10," Gregory said. "We told them, of course, we could not seat them at that moment as we had been at capacity, but they didn’t mind waiting. They were simply waiting their turn on the public sidewalk."

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Another employee of a bar at Main Gate, who preferred to remain anonymous, worried more about the opinions of others about their workplace reopening.

“The biggest thing is I know there’s a large part of society that is not happy with [bar’s name] for opening or with other restaurants for reopening, and I don’t want to give them any fodder to attack us with,” they said.

According to the anonymous source, crowd control was nothing new, especially during graduation weekend.

“It was challenging," they said. "A lot of the younger crowd didn’t want to abide by the rules, but we’re used to dealing with that crowd and know how to do the things we want them to do for the most part."

They stated that after testing positive for the antibody test administered at the UA, they felt less concerned about coming back to work.

“I tested positive for the antibody, so I’m not too concerned for my health," the anonymous source said. "I’m still taking a lot of precautions to make sure I don't bring anything home, transfer things to surfaces like keys or wallets and things like that. I take those precautions when I get home and our staff does the same."

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Dr. Janko Nikolich-Žugich, a UA professor and head of the immunobiology department, said in a filmed conversation with UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins that the antibody test could indicate immunity to COVID-19.

“This is telling us whether the virus was there and whether our body has mounted an immune response," Nikolich-Žugich said. "It, by proxy, also, will tell us are we likely to be immune to the virus going forward." 

Robbins himself had faith in the antibody test, as he stated in a press conference held on Thursday, April 30.

“I’m certainly hoping that I would have a positive [antibody] test because I would feel very comfortable that I would have immunity if my test comes back positive,” Robbins said.

As several businesses along Main Gate and in the general Tucson area continue to plan their uncertain futures, many have already experienced this profound uncertainty, according to the anonymous source.

“When it first happened we laid off a lot of the staff," they said. "It was like one of the worst days of my life, kicking people out to the street, not knowing where the next paycheck was coming from or how they were going to pay their bills and stuff like that.” 


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