Austin’s water boil notice is still in effect, which means that the city doesn’t have readily available clean water for the third day in a row and going. It’s still unclear how long the situation will last, with predictions ranging from several days to two weeks.
The boil water notice significantly affects Austin restaurants and bars, which require clean water to operate from cleaning produce, washing dishes, creating ice, and mixing cocktails.
To find out how those Austin restaurants and bars are dealing with the water advisory, Eater talked to several restaurant and bars about what they’re doing, which includes boiling a lot of water and offering/selling bottled water to customers.
The water boil notice on Monday caught Callie Speer, the owner/chef of downtown diner Holy Roller, off guard to the point where the restaurant had to close for the day. The bread and bakery production typically begins early in the morning, well before the boil notice was issued that day, which meant that everything the staff prepared couldn’t be sold.
Instead of just opening the restaurant without knowing how it would deal with the water issue, Speer decided to close the restaurant for the day. “We felt better to take the day, regroup, and come up with a solid plan for ensuring the safety and health of our guests and staff moving forward,” she told Eater.
Holy reopened that next day with enough bottled water for table-service, clean water for food and cleaning prep, but couldn’t offer hot coffee and mixed cocktails.
“At a time when so many businesses are struggling,” said Drink.Well owner Jessica Sanders, “it’s brutal to have something like this happen and see your sales take a hit as a result.”
Her North Loop cocktail bar remains open through the advisory, serving most of its food menu. It’s sourcing its ice from unaffected Texas counties and made use of the ice supply it had from before the ordinance was issued. The bar is also making batched cocktails to help quickly serve customers, plus emphasizing neat pours of spirits.
Neighboring North Loop restaurant Foreign & Domestic has been bringing water and ice from Luling, Texas, where co-owners and chefs Sarah Heard and Nathan Lemley currently live. That city’s water system wasn’t affected.
At this time, Foreign is “being super conservative with water practices,” said Heard. The restaurant isn’t resetting plates and silverware between courses unless items are very dirty, and customers are encouraged to share plates too.
“It’s very important to keep our staff paid as they still have to pay rent and bills,” Heard said. “The only way we can afford to do so is to buckle down, work a little smarter and harder, and be as responsible as possible through this.”
Bouldin restaurant Thai Fresh decided to cut down its menu to just stir-fries through the length of the boil notice, “because it is much easier to just have one station going,” explained owner Jam Sanitchat. The stove tops normally dedicated to curries are being used to boil water for the restaurant’s use.
Sanitchat plans on slightly expanding that menu starting tomorrow by adding food warmers for very limited curries and soup options (one chicken curry, one tofu or tempeh curry, and one mushroom soup).
Being resourceful, Asian-fusion comfort restaurant Peached Tortilla owner Eric Silverstein dipped into its catering branch for bottled and canned sodas and waters. However, it still can’t make coffee or use its soda guns.
Austin breweries have been helping out residents and local businesses by using its equipment to boil large volumes of water for residential and business use, including a lot of coffee shops.
- Austin Boil Water Notice Affects Local Restaurants [EATX]
- Austin, Keep Boiling Your Water for Now [Curbed Austin]