The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Purple Patch temporarily closed after sprinkler system ‘explosion’

Placeholder while article actions load

Around 9 p.m. Saturday, with the upstairs dining room filled to capacity, the cooks at Purple Patch suddenly heard an explosion above their heads and were, seconds later, soaked with water. A sprinkler head had burst, filling the kitchen and, eventually, the downstairs bar with water.

Management quickly called 911 and the building manager. Purple Patch co-owner Patrice Cleary then roamed from table to table, explaining what had just happened. She asked diners if they could finish their meals and exit as quickly as possible. Their dinners would be comped, she told them.

"I don’t want this to define [their] experience," Cleary said about customers at her Filipino and American restaurant in Mount Pleasant, which opened in March. "I didn't want firemen trampling through the restaurant while they were eating."

When the building manager finally shut off the water main, some 10 minutes or so later, the downstairs bar was flooded. There was standing water almost ankle-deep, Cleary said. But because it was a mechanical failure and not an act of God — the faulty sprinkler system was apparently a pre-existing condition, dating back to when Tonic operated in the space — Purple Patch's insurance covered the damage.

The sprinkler system has already been repaired, and crews were replacing drywall downstairs, Cleary said. Giant fans were drying out the space this afternoon. Cleary said the water-damaged rooms should be ready for dinner service by Wednesday. That would mean losing only two days of business since Purple Patch is closed on Mondays, a minor loss in the grand scheme of things, Cleary noted.

The flooding also meant Purple Patch had to trash some food, including about 50 orders of pork-and-beef spring rolls known as lumpia. Cleary's mom in Texas prepares the lumpia for the restaurant and ships about 1,000 pieces a week to Washington. "I sent my mom a text immediately," Cleary said.

The emergency order of lumpia should arrive by Wednesday, the owner promised.