Atlanta Restaurant Scene

Water main break puts DeKalb County restaurants 'in the weeds'

A massive water main break in DeKalb County early this morning affected schools, hospitals, businesses and other services across the county .

It was an especially tough day for restaurants, with owners and operators forced to make decisions about opening or closing, staffing and what to do with unsold food.

The water main break, which occurred in Doraville, near Buford Highway, forced the closure of numerous restaurants that would normally open for breakfast.

Typically, The General Muir in Emory Point would have opened for breakfast at 7 a.m. But co-owner Todd Ginsberg and his business partners had to call off breakfast.

The 14 employees on the restaurant’s morning crew waited to find out whether they were needed for lunch service, which also ended up being canceled.

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In downtown Decatur, Thumbs Up Diner did open for business but ended up closing mid-morning due to the lack of water pressure. A nearby Waffle House was also open but serving its no-water menu.

Up north in Dunwoody, Da Vinci’s Donuts co-owner Ryan Boon was able to adapt to the loss of water and open as scheduled.

 “We are next door to Walgreen’s and cleaned them out of water so we could make our product tomorrow morning,” Boon said. “We don’t require a ton of water, but the bigger issue is cleaning.”

Boon said his shop had enough sanitizer to operate, and it doesn’t use plates or glasses, which makes it easier for his business to adapt. 

Boon’s crew ultimately bought as much bottled water as it could find to make sure it had enough to make doughnuts and coffee to serve customers today, Thursday and Friday if the outage persists. But Saturday could be tricky if the outage isn’t fixed by then, he said.

READ MORE >> Can DeKalb County restaurants remain open during the water outage?

The Flying Biscuit in Town Brookhaven kept its normal business hours, however the water main break disrupted service for other restaurants in the shopping center, including Lucky’s Burger & Brew.

Michael Livingston is the general manager of Lucky's Burger & Brew in Brookhaven. The restaurant delayed its lunch today after a water main break.

Normally, Lucky’s would have opened at 11:30 a.m. Today, lunch was delayed.

Lucky’s general manager Michael Livingston and six other employees showed up for work as usual. But after waiting for the water to come back on, Livingston finally sent all six employees home. As luck would have it, the water came on 15 minutes later, Livingston said. He ended up calling them back to work shortly thereafter.

However, many tasks awaited the Lucky’s team to make sure everything was safe and clean, which included emptying the ice machine, draining the lines and washing the machine. The staff would also need to bleed the lines on the soda machines. Livingston calculated that the extra work would take an hour to an hour and a half.

Adding to Livingston’s frustration was having to field nearly 30 phone calls from prospective customers who wanted to know whether the restaurant would be open today. He told them all that Lucky’s would be closed.

By early afternoon, many restaurants that had stated earlier in the day that they would not be open for dinner, including Farm Burger and The White Bull, had switched into dinner prep mode after all.

Back at The General Muir, the water pressure had returned. Ginsberg said the restaurant would open for dinner service. It had already donated its morning bagels and pastries to Hope Lodge, which offers free accommodations to cancer patients and their families.

While these DeKalb restaurants are coping with the unexpected situation, some owners and workers expressed frustration.

“It’s very annoying,” Livingston said, describing the headache the water main break caused at Lucky’s.

Boon of Da Vinci’s Donuts said the outage is another black eye on DeKalb.

“It’s sad to me that we can’t do a better job with our infrastructure,” Boon said. “It feels like it’s one thing after another after another in DeKalb County. I feel like people see that and they start to feel like they don’t want to live or do business in DeKalb County.”

Staff writers Michael Kanell, Tia Mitchell and J. Scott Trubey contributed to this story.

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About the Author

Ligaya Figueras joined the AJC as its food and dining editor in 2015.

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