Following closures across the city related to yesterday’s 96-inch water main break that left some parts of the city flooded and others completely without water, Houston’s restaurants are contending with a host of new regulations now that the water is back on.
Service has been restored across the city, but the Houston Health Department issued an order requiring all restaurants to shut off all appliances using tap water, throw out any ice or beverages made with “potentially contaminated” tap water, and use bottled water for preparing food and washing produce, among other requirements. To reduce dishwashing needs, the Health Department also suggested the use of disposable plates and cups.
In an Instagram post, Hugo’s co-owner Tracy Vaught detailed some of the measures implemented by her restaurant to minimize the risk of contamination and stay in compliance with the Health Department’s rules. “We have purchased bottled and jug water, purified ice, some canned drinks,” Vaught wrote. “We are boiling water for kitchen use and have suspended the sale of raw oysters to be safe and they need quite a bit of water in preparation. Our dish machines have been recalibrated for hotter water, more sanitizing solution.”
And while these moves are absolutely necessary to ensure diner safety, they’re costly for restaurants. Considering that many restaurants across the city were forced to cancel reservations and close their doors, which inevitably means a significant loss of revenue, tossing out food and buying new ice from outside sources just makes yesterday’s incident that much more of a drain on businesses that already operate on razor-thin margins.
According to Click2Houston, the current boil notice is set to last for 24 hours, which means that it could expire on Friday afternoon, but city officials could still extend the order if more work needs to be done to ensure the safety of the water.