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Thursday November 2, 2000

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Fire disturbs union food businesses

Headline Photo

By Rebecca Missel

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Hot dog cart's business increases during evacuation

Sales at hot dog carts soared yesterday because of the fire at Louie's Lower Level restaurant, which shut down services at Memorial Student Union for four hours.

Between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m., students were evacuated from the building and normal revenues for the carts doubled, said Don Wirth, a mobile carts caterer for University of Arizona Dining Services.

"Everyone who couldn't buy at the union bought here," he said. "The staff at the hot dog carts were majorly overworked."

Louie's Lower Level restaurant will be closed this week after a failure of the hooding system caused a two-alarm fire.

"Any food left out must be thrown out," said Dan Adams, Arizona Student Unions director. "We lost several thousand (dollars) in food and several thousand (dollars) in food sales."

Since the fire destroyed a deep fryer and caused major damage to the entire exhaust system, officials are not sure when the restaurant will reopen.

"Our next challenge is how do we offer a food venue at a temporary location," Adams said.

Tucson Fire Department estimated that 1,500 to 2,000 people were inside when the alarm went off. Adams said his top priority was ensuring the safety of both employees and students currently in the building.

"Everyone handled the emergency well," he said.

David Galbraith, director of dining services for Arizona Student Unions, could not estimate the amount of money lost during the four hours of evacuation.

"We've just begun to grab that data," he said. "We need to get our feet under us before we tally up the damage."

There has not been a major fire that did any damage to the Memorial Student Union in the last 10 years, Galbraith said.

Most employees and students followed the proper evacuation procedures, he said.

"It was very controlled and calm," Galbraith said. "Not that a fire is routine, but everyone did what they were supposed to do."

With services at the Memorial Student Union unavailable until noon, many students relocated to Park Student Union for food.

"We're about 50 percent over what we would have normally done," said Kathy Van Os, dining services manager. "It's been crazy."

To help service the influx of students, at least six employees were sent from their jobs at Memorial Student Union over to Park, Van Os said.

"It's been great for us," she said. "But it's a little bit of a walk for some customers who were unfamiliar with what we have to offer."

During the four years she has worked at Park Student Union, Van Os said she has never seen a situation where one of the unions shut down entirely.

"This is a first," she said.