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Restaurants with approved water plans may open soon

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some restaurants in Kanawha and Putnam counties will soon be reopening, provided they can find a way to get clean, hot water into their facilities, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

All restaurants, bars and other facilities that require a health license have been closed since a chemical spill contaminated area drinking water on Thursday.

Every restaurant will have to submit a written plan for how they intend to get water to their facilities. The plans will be reviewed by the Health Department, which will send a sanitarian to inspect the restaurant. Restaurants will have to flush out all their old water, and there will be testing mechanisms to make sure they do that, Gupta said.

Restaurants will use either existing pipes or temporary pipes to bring water in from an outside tank or tanker truck.

"Different ones are going to do different things -- we accept that," Gupta said.

Gupta said the Health Department would be open all day, every day, to review plans and inspect facilities.

"We're moving into a phase of emergency, not only the contamination of the water, but also the health and nutrition and safety of individuals," Gupta said, "as well as the economic loss and the employment of several thousand individuals."

Gupta said the Health Department also will help restaurants develop plans for getting usable water.

By Saturday evening, the Health Department had listed seven Charleston restaurants as reopened, but at least three of those restaurants had not yet actually opened.

There are about 1,500 businesses with health licenses in Kanawha and Putnam counties.

He said many chain and corporate restaurants already have plans in place for situations like this, and it's just a matter of executing those plans.

Meanwhile, customers have been flocking to restaurants in St. Albans, the rare area in Kanawha County where water is safe to use.

Employees are doing what they can to keep up, but the demand is high.

"We probably had a record day for business [Friday]," said Kathy Smith, who works at River's Edge Café. "We didn't run out of food, but we came close."

Smith said the owner went to Sam's Club to replenish the restaurant's supplies and they were prepared for another busy day.

"All the customers were very understanding," Smith said of the long waits for food. "They knew the situation we were in. All in all, everything went well."

The café had to bring in a few extra employees to handle the larger than normal crowd.

There was a huge line at Tim Horton's in St. Albans at 10:30 Saturday morning. Employees there called corporate headquarters to request an emergency shipment of supplies; it arrived Friday night.

"We knew we were going to be short on supplies, so they brought it in," employee Traci Shadrick said. "We have cases and cases of coffee. We are pretty stocked up."

Shadrick added that Tim Horton's regularly scheduled delivery truck was to arrive later Saturday with more supplies.

Tudor's was so busy Saturday morning that an employee politely apologized because the rush was too much and there was no time to talk.

A manager at the McDonald's in St. Albans said that the store is pulling supplies from other area McDonald's that had to shut down.

"We're keeping up, but it's hard," one manager said.

Mayberry's restaurant ran out of a few items Friday night, employee Brenda Clay said.

She said a few employees were asked to stay longer to help with the crowd.

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.

Reach Caitlin Cook at Caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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