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Come hell or high water — or more accurately, no water — Jim Cowan was determined to get his restaurant back open on Monday.
Two days into the city’s water crisis, the owner of Toledo’s Original Pancake House scrounged up enough bottled water, bagged ice, and packaged pop to get back to the business of flipping flapjacks.
It turned out to be mostly unnecessary, as residents and businesses were given the all clear to use the city’s water around 9:30 a.m. By then, though, plenty of damage had been done.
“We were probably in the thousands of dollars lost. It was pretty bad. Those are our two busiest days of the week,” said Candie Hayes, the restaurant’s manager.
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The greatest toll Toledo’s 56-hour water advisory took on the city may have been the stress of trying to find safe water and the realization that Toledo’s water supply is vulnerable. But the algae-tainted water also put a solid hit on the region’s economy.
Estimating just how much revenue the area may have lost during the weekend is difficult. Without any solid data, economists were hesitant Monday to take a stab at quantifying that.
Anecdotally, several restaurant operators reported losing several thousands of dollars in revenue. The manager of a Max & Erma’s in Perrysburg told The Blade the water advisory likely cost the restaurant between $12,000 and $15,000 even though it stayed open with a limited menu.
Most places just closed.
Gus Mancy, co-owner of Mancy’s Steakhouse, said all of the family’s restaurants were closed both Saturday and Sunday. He didn’t put a dollar figure on how much revenue that cost, but said it was significant.
“It’s a lot of sales we missed out on. And it’s not just us, it hurt everybody that’s in the hospitality industry,” he said.
Bennett Enterprises LLC, which operates Toledo-area Ralphie’s Sports Eaterys and Frisch’s Big Boys, closed eight of its area restaurateurs.
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Mark Wallace, operations director for Ralphie’s, said the company didn’t even consider trying to stay open. It did, however, reap the benefits of having stores in Oregon, which wasn’t affected by Toledo’s woes.
The situation that struck the Toledo region bears some similarity to what happened early this year in Charleston, W.Va.
There, a chemical used in coal production spilled, seeping into the Elk River just upstream from one of the inlets that takes in the region’s water supply.
Here, it was blue-green algae huddling around the city’s water intake crib.
In both instances, residents were told not to drink the water, and many businesses were forced to close.
Charleston’s ban lasted five days, and residents were told not to wash their hands or clothes. In Toledo, most residents were told they could bathe and do laundry, but could not wash dishes.
Though Toledo’s was shorter in length, it was larger in breadth. In West Virginia, the advisory covered 300,000 people. In the Toledo area, it affected 500,000.
Christine Risch, director of resource and energy economics at Marshall University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, was part of a group that estimated the West Virginia spill cost the local economy $61 million.
“Some of that could have been recovered later if there was ability to shift consumption from that weekend to the next,” she said in a Monday interview. “But most of the restaurants had a permanent loss because they had to shut down completely, and they couldn’t get that back. The same with the hotels.”
Ms. Risch said the team tried to isolate businesses that relied on clean water — such as hospitals, doctors offices, motels, and restaurants — and estimate how much business volume was lost. Restaurants, she said, were the hardest hit. Because of that, lower-wage workers were disproportionately affected.
She felt confident their estimations were realistic.
Though Ms. Risch couldn’t venture a guess to how much Toledo-area businesses might have suffered, she said the damage is likely to be quite real.
“There are a lot of industries that depend on clean water. It is a critical component of doing business for consumer consumption, health care, and entertainment,” Ms. Risch said.
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The timing of Toledo’s situation lessened the blow for some companies that don’t do significant work during the weekends, such as Perrysburg’s LarMar Foods Inc.
The salad dressing manufacturer generally runs its production Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, using Monday to prepare. A company spokesman told The Blade the company decided to postpone normal work and spend Monday flushing out lines. Production will resume Wednesday, she said.
Even Kroger, which diverted 4.2 million bottles of water to its Toledo-area stores over the weekend, didn’t emerge unscathed.
Company spokesman Jackie Siekmann said stores were forced to throw away fresh produce, certain cuts of meats, and anything else that may have come into contact with water.
Employees were working to clean out water lines and sanitize racks Monday, though Ms. Siekmann said it could take more time before restocking began.
“We’re going to have to ask for patience because this could take more than a day,” she said.
Some restaurants also found themselves throwing away food.
Kevin Marsh, the general manager of the Olive Garden on Monroe Street, said there was no chance the restaurant could have opened on Saturday.
“We spent most of the day throwing out all the soups, sauces, and food we’d made on Friday. Anything left over was disposed of,” Mr. Marsh said.
“We threw away quite a bit of food. There’s no sense in trying to use something to save money to make a guest sick.”
Olive Garden parent company Darden Restaurants Inc. sent in a truckload of bottled water and ice late Sunday so its Toledo locations could get up and running even if the water advisory persisted.
Mr. Marsh said the food the restaurant served on Monday was made with the bottled water. Work was also being done to replace filters throughout the location.
Retailers appeared to be affected to a lesser extent, though they likely still lost some sales.
“It was quiet here Saturday morning,” said Julie Sanderson, a spokesman for Toledo’s Franklin Park Mall. “You could just sense something bigger than shopping was happening in this city.”
Ms. Sanderson said foot traffic picked up as the day wore on. She said things seemed back to normal on Sunday.
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6134.