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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

University Boulevard businesses harmed by postgame disturbance

Several businesses on University Boulevard lost revenue after they were forced to close early Saturday night due the chaos outside their storefronts.

The Tucson Police Department forced a number of restaurants and clothing stores on University Boulevard to close early that night due the clash between officers and unruly fans following the Arizona men’s basketball team’s loss in the Elite Eight.

Gentle Ben’s Brewing Co. had to close around 9 p.m.; it normally closes at 2 a.m. on Saturday nights. TPD told employees the business could reopen after midnight, but it was “worthless” at that point, and Gentle Ben’s stayed closed until the next business day, according to Richard Fifer, the restaurant’s general manager.

“We expected them to close the streets for like an hour and open back up, but we ended up sitting around for a couple hours and decided it wasn’t worth it,” Fifer said. “It affected us tremendously. We lost out on a lot of revenue and the staff lost out on a lot of tips.”

Frog & Firkin was also among the restaurants affected by Saturday’s events. Gretchen Patze, manager of Frog & Firkin, said it closed at about 10:30 p.m., more than three hours earlier than its normal 2 a.m. closing time.

“We don’t ever close that early, but we had to,” Patze said.

Patze said the chemicals deployed by TPD on the crowds affected those working that night.

“We all had to run inside and it got in here too, but us as servers and bartenders, we couldn’t even work,” Patze said. “I had a shirt over my mouth. A lot of people were throwing up.”

A row of officers stretched from Gentle Ben’s across the street to Frog & Firkin, trying to push everyone back to get them to leave the area, Patze said, and fans saw officers in riot gear and took it as a challenge.

Pelio Grill Greek Taverna & Catering was also forced to close early Saturday. No one could come in or out of his establishment because of police blocking off the road, according to owner George Markou.

“Everything was blocked off, so no one had access,” Markou said. “We were going to stay open until 11 or midnight on Saturday due to the game, but we had to close at 9 p.m.”

Markou said that closing early affected his business negatively, causing his restaurant to miss out on revenue and his employees to lose wages.

“I’ve seen and been in riots in Europe, and this was not a riot,” Markou said. “This was nothing more than UA fans being upset about our loss, no different than any other kind of sports upset.”
TPD locked the door to Swindlers, causing it to close early as well, according to Dia De La Vina, a cultural anthropology junior and Swindlers employee.

De La Vina was present throughout the game and after it ended and said people were locked in Swindlers for about an hour and a half.

“The biggest problem for me was that there was no communication from TPD with any of the stores that I knew, including us,” De La Vina said, “so it was myself and another young coworker that were in there by ourselves.”

De La Vina said that the serious lack of communication made it difficult for her and her coworker to do their jobs and to keep the people that were around their store safe.

“That’s obviously really problematic when you’re running a business,” De La Vina said.

Fifer and Patze said TPD representatives came into their businesses to talk about Saturday night’s events and go over what they could have done different. They also went over a plan of what they would do next year if the same thing occurred.

-Jazmine Foster-Hall contributed reporting to this article

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