Dorchester eateries win some, lose some during water crisis

Few industries were affected more by this week’s water crisis than restaurants and cafes, and Dorchester was no exception. One restaurant lost more than 50 percent of its business; several coffee shops and smaller eateries were forced to close due to the lack of drinkable water, leaving in business only those with ready supplies of bottled H2O or the means to boil their own.

The all-clear was sounded on Tuesday morning.

Dorchester Ave.’s Sugar Bowl Cafe was one of the few shops in the neighborhood that continued to brew coffee throughout the boil order, using supplies of bottled water after disconnecting their coffee makers from the city’s water lines.

“It was such a process,” said the Sugar Bowl’s Nicole Wiktorowski, who added that despite having to manually pour water into the machines, business doubled during the shop’s short reign as one of the Columbia-Savin Hill area’s exclusive sources of java. Though customers were lined up out the door at times on Sunday, Wiktorowski said that everyone was very patient with the service.

“[Getting coffee is] what you do on a Sunday morning,” she said.
A 120-inch-diameter pipe connecting two major aqueducts in Weston sprung a massive leak on Saturday, sending over 8 million gallons per hour into the Charles River. Officials activated water reserves that had not been fully treated and announced a boil order to prevent people from drinking potentially contaminated tap water coming to Boston via the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs.

At D.J.’s Market on Boston St., deli manager Chris Hislop said that while the boil order affected coffee sales and some food preparation, whether the incident hurt business was questionable. “It did and it didn’t,” Hislop said, “we don’t have a big coffee business but we couldn’t have the coffee business like we usually do.”

Hislop said that some extra steps needed to be taken in order to ensure that the deli’s food offerings, like kielbasa, pastrami and bigo stew, were safe to eat. The deli’s staff made sure that water was at a full boil before putting ingredients into pots, he said.
Some of D.J.’s customers griped a bit about both the lack of coffee and the general inconvenience of a few days without drinkable running water, he said. “Our customers like to complain about a lot of stuff, so it was an extra thing to complain about during the day,” he joked.

Just down the street from D.J’s is one restaurant that had reason to feel bad. 224 Boston St. saw a massive loss of business as a result of the boil order, “between 50 and 60 percent,” said chef Peter Beresford.

“At first I think it was people out getting water, people figuring out what was going on,” Beresford said Tuesday as he was preparing a whole wheat pasta dish over a large kitchen flame. After the initial chaos Saturday evening, Beresford suspects that many diners fled outside of the affected area and to suburban restaurants where food safety would not be in doubt. On a typical Saturday evening, 224 Boston St. would serve between 180 and 220 dinners. Last Saturday night, the number was 80 to 90.

Like Hislop, Beresford also had to take extra precautions to ensure that no contaminated water made it onto any dining tables, adding a few hours to the crew’s days just to take the extra steps necessary for safety.

“There are a lot of little things you don’t think about that involve water. You have to make sure that you sterilize and clean the lines and purge the system,” he said. “We’re back on track now.”

And City Councillor At-Large Ayanna Pressley, who lives in Ashmont, on Tuesday offered an early-morning “quick word of warning” on the social networking site Twitter: The Dunkin’ Donuts near her was still not serving coffee, despite the boil order getting lifted that morning.

Material from State House News Service was used in this report.