The Washington Post

D.C. suburb’s sudden water outage forces restaurants to close, hotels to empty

In business, the “well has run dry” generally refers to a shortage of loans or operating capital.

In Prince George’s County, Md., however, for the next few days, the phrase has reverted to its original, literal definition — there will be no water.

Responding to a failing water main leading into the county, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission on Tuesday started shutting off the water flow to more than 100,000 residents and businesses in suburbs directly southeast of the District. Repairs are expected to take between three and five days, and already, the outage has started to cripple some companies in the region.

“When the water is gone, we have to close,” Carmen Carannante, who with her husband runs Mamma Lucia, a restaurant in the middle of the country, said in an interview.

No clean water means no way to wash hands or dishes, and for Carannante, that will mean shutting down for the duration of the outage, which began with mandatory rationing on Tuesday.

Every day the business is closed, she expects to lose about $1,000 in revenue, and she is worried her insurance plan will not cover the losses. The shutdown also means several days without work for the restaurant’s five employees.

“I really hope it isn’t any longer than that,” Carannante said. “We’ll do what we gotta do.”

Down the street, Muhammad Ahmad has been trying to find a workaround to keep water flowing into one of the two locations of Cameron's Seafood Market he manages in Prince George’s County. His markets need ice to keep their fish, shrimp and shellfish cold, and while the taps were still working on Wednesday morning, he has been told to expect them to run dry by early afternoon.

That will mean major losses for his stores, including another located in the Oxon Hill neighborhood.

“I can’t tell you exactly how much, but whew, it will be a lot of money,” Ahmad said.

About 10 miles to the west, restaurant owners and hotel managers are making preparations to essentially shut down National Harbor, a massive shopping, lodging and convention center complex on the banks of the Potomac.

The center’s six hotels have started winding down their operations and plan to evacuate all guests by midday on Wednesday, according to Kent Digby, Senior Vice President at National Harbor. Without water, he explained, the hotels cannot wash linens, serve food or run their plumbing.

Collectively, in National Harbor alone, that will mean more than 3,000 displaced guests, not including those scheduled to arrive later this week, according to Mike Wilson, manager of a Residence Inn in Alexandria.

Wilson was at the hotel chain’s location in National Harbor to help execute emergency plans and assist guests looking for alternative accomodations. He said the hotel plans to be empty of all guests by noon on Wednesday, though managers had yet to decide what to tell guests scheduled to arrive in the coming days.

The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center will follow a similar plan, removing all guests by noon on Wednesday. Nearly all of the hotel’s roughly 2,000 guest rooms were full on Tuesday.

The complex’s more than two dozen restaurants will be forced to close starting tomorrow for the duration of the water shutoff starting Wednesday, too, and some were forced to wind down early on Tuesday.

The complex stands to lose as much as a half-million dollars per day, Digby said.

“Some of our buildings are water-cooled, too, so it’s a bit of a mixed big in terms of which of our buildings will lose HVAC,” he added. “We’ll just have to ride this thing out.”

Has your business been affected by the water outage? Please email us and let us know.

Follow On Small Business and J.D. Harrison .

J.D. Harrison covers startups, small business and entrepreneurship, with a focus on public policy, and he runs the On Small Business blog.



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