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Cate Restaurants, Cate Three dorms to not reopen for fall semester following Cate Center renovations

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Construction on Cate Main July 24. The building will no longer offer restaurant options to students and will instead become Housing and Food's Central Production, where employees will prepare "grab-and-go" items to be sent to other campus restaurants. 

Cate Center, a group of five buildings on OU’s Norman campus, is undergoing renovations this summer and will no longer directly offer the same housing and food options to students.

Cate Restaurants, located in Cate Main, closed in late May for the summer term, but it will not reopen in the fall to offer services from Taco Mayo, Oliver’s Breakfast, O’Henry’s Sandwiches, Roscoe’s Coffee and Ruthie’s.

The building, instead, will be known as Central Production and will be used by OU Housing and Food Services to prepare “grab-and-go” food options sold in campus dining locations, Dave Annis, director of Housing and Food Services, said in an email.

“Cate Restaurants has been in operation for 66 years, and while it was a popular place for freshmen students, Cross restaurant options provide an opportunity for both freshmen and upperclass students with a wider variety of food choices,” Annis said in the email.

Cate employees were not notified of its permanent closure until July 11, according to an email sent to Cate employees from Nancy J. Nichols, Cate’s centralized scheduler. However, Annis said employees were notified of the changes in late June.

Some Cate Restaurant employees will stay at Central Production and others will be transferred to other restaurants on campus, according to Annis. Another Housing and Food representative sent a follow-up email on July 18 to employees at Cate who will be transferred to Cross OU in the fall.

“We are certain the skills and experience you’ve gained while at Cate will be an incredible benefit to opening these brand new restaurant concepts in just a few weeks,” Housing and Food Services’ Talent and Organizational Development representative Lauren Royston said in an email to Cate employees transferring to Cross. “The managers of Cross are currently evaluating your class schedules and will be assigning you to a concept within Cross soon!”

Patrick Turner, a student supervisor at Cate Restaurants, said he was training to be the student manager at Cate Restaurants before it shut down for the summer. Turner said he first heard a rumor about Cate’s possible closure a couple weeks after spring semester ended.

“That was really nerve-wracking,” said Turner, an aerospace engineering junior. “So then, I went and talked to the actual management that was in charge of Cate. They didn’t know either.”

Sarah Spurlin, a student supervisor at Taco Mayo, said she heard the same rumors in May but was still expecting work to resume at the start of the semester in August.

“At the end of the semester, everything I was hearing was we were going to be open in the fall,” said Spurlin, a vocal performance junior. “I was at that last closing shift, and it was very much, ‘See you next semester.’”

Turner said he was frustrated by the lack of communication from Housing and Food and the uncertainty of his job status.

“I mean, if we knew everything, it would be no problem,” Turner said. “But the fact that it’s taken them so long to get answers out there, we don’t know what’s going to happen, so we’re uncomfortable with the situation.”

While the changes have been frustrating for some students, Annis said employees were notified as soon as decisions about the transitions were made.

“Housing and Food Services works with University leadership to evaluate and adjust services to best meet student and guest needs,” Annis said in the email. “Over the past few years, efficiency and responsible management of resources has directed changes for both Food and Housing operations.”

As part of these changes, Cate Main’s annex, which housed the RA office and community center, has been torn down to improve sidewalk drainage and congestion in attempts to make it easier for students to walk through the southern part of campus, Brian Holderread, director of Architectural and Engineering Services told The Daily in March.

Spurlin said the changes have their pros and cons.

“It will be a fun new challenge, I guess,” Spurlin said. “We’ll be in a brand new building, which will be nice, but we’ll have to re-learn how to do our jobs.”

Cate Center housing is also undergoing some major changes. As the oldest dorm still in use at OU, Cate Center first housed students in 1949 when it was initially a freshmen women’s dorm.

The buildings were named after Roscoe Cate, who studied journalism at OU in the 1920s and later became the editor of Sooner Magazine, the chief financial advisor to George Lynn Cross and the financial vice president in 1950, according to the OU Housing and Food website.

Cate Three will not house students for the 2018-2019 year since the Residential Colleges and Cross OU are now available for upperclass housing, Annis said.

Camryn Fry, a modern dance performance sophomore, lived in Cate Center Four during the 2017-2018 school year and said renovations began last fall. Fry said the dorms weren’t falling apart when she lived there but were clearly old with rusted furniture and chipped paint.

“At one point in the year, they were re-tarring the roof, so all our rooms smelled like tar at all times,” Fry said. “They would start work at 4:30 in the morning, and we were never warned about any of that. So one day, there were people on our roof, and all of our rooms and belongings started to smell like tar.”

Fry said she was told the dorms were being turned into offices by her RA in a dorm meeting at the end of the fall semester. Around the same time, construction efforts began to tear down the lobby, Fry said.   

“That’s kind of upsetting a little bit just because we were still living there, and here they are, starting construction at 4:30 in the morning right below my room,” Fry said. “My roommate and I were waking up at 4:30 every morning to construction.”

Although the Cate dorms were not in the nicest condition while she lived there, Fry said she liked how they were closer to classes and cheaper than other dorms. However, the quality of the building made it apparent why they were the cheapest, Fry said.

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