With an early-morning edict from Austin Water calling for all water used for drinking, cooking or ice to be boiled for three minutes before use and for dishes and food to be rinsed with boiled water, restaurants were forced to make major changes to their operations on the fly Monday, with some choosing to close completely for the day.
Jack Allen’s Kitchen closed its three Austin locations (Oak Hill, Anderson Lane and Loop 360) for the day, though the Round Rock location remained open. The restaurants owned by Jack Gilmore are slated to re-open Tuesday with “a plan in place to ensure food and drinks are prepared safely according to the City of Austin guidelines.”
Jack Allen’s Kitchens were not alone in turning off the lights. Modern downtown diner Holy Roller also closed for the entire day to ensure the safety of its guests.
“Our team will take the day today to plan for making our baked goods and other menu items for the rest of the week,” Holy Roller said in a statement. “This is a simply a precautionary measure and we intend to reopen tomorrow.”
By Monday afternoon, Shoal Creek Saloon, Hillside Farmacy, Hat Creek Burgers, Magnolia Cafe on Lake Austin Boulevard, Soup Peddler and others had announced they were closed for the day.
One of the hardest hit niches in the food and beverage world were coffee shops, which rely on water for most of their drinks. By lunchtime, global powerhouse Starbucks said they would keep their Austin shops open but would not be selling hand-crafted drinks like coffees and espresso-based concoctions.
Locals Bennu Coffee served cold brew coffee made with bottled water driven in from Elgin by an employee and Houndstooth Coffee decided to “err on the side of caution” and closed its Austin stores until the city gives the all-clear on using water.
Some restaurants that elected to stay open served limited menus, opted for paper plates, used bottled water for drinking, and boiled water for various uses.
South Congress Tex-Mex staple Guero’s Taco Bar remained open Monday and, like many restaurants in town, publicly stated that all food was being prepared safely with boiled water.
P. Terry’s also adapted by boiling water used to clean produce and potatoes, as well as wash employees’ hands, at its 13 Austin locations. The restaurants boiled water and used bagged ice to cool it before washing the food. The stores, like many other around the city, eliminated, until further notice, all of its fountain soda, lemonade and tea offerings, and opted to sell bottled water brought in specifically because of the boil-water notice, which the company first heard about through an alert sent to an employee from his child’s school district.
“The staff was more affected by the water disruption than our customers,” Terry said. “We spent more time prepping as we had to boil water and then cool it down before using. Other than offering only milkshakes and orange juice to drink, it was business as usual.”
Sharon Mays, who owns healthy fast-casual salad-centric restaurant Baby Greens (1508 Anderson Lane), said she first heard about the notice from the news Monday and received no direct notification from the city or Austin Water. Mays opened for business at 11 a.m. and made menu adaptations that allowed the business and customers to stay safe. She purchased pre-cut and pre-washed lettuce in order to avoid using additional water and minimize the amount of water needed for washing vegetables.
“I don’t want to add a burden to the water needs of the city, but I also have to be aware of the fact that my staff has to earn money so that they can live,” Mays said.
The fact that her restaurant specializes in to-go orders also means Baby Greens uses very few dishes in the restaurant, thus minimizing the need to wash dishes.
Despite providing customers with completely safe dining options, Mays said Baby Greens still had a very slow day, a woe echoed by other business owners around town, and only did about half the sales of a normal day.
“Hopefully once people have a better understanding of what we're dealing with as a city they will come back,” Mays said. “This is a time where local businesses need the customers to come out and support them. Most businesses can only take a couple of painfully slow days before it has an effect on the bottom line.”
For more information and frequently asked questions about boil water notices visit http://www.austintexas.gov/boilH2O.
Bennu Coffee is once again serving the following drinks: Cold brew, iced Bennu, iced tea, drip coffee (limited), French press coffee (limited), iced chai, Italian soda and all bottled and canned beverages. They also released the following statement: "Bennu is committed to following all commercial food service regulations to keep customers and staff happy and safe. They have brought in ice from outside vendors and are boiling all water used for drink service and dishwashing. To keep up with the boiling demand, they've brought in electric kettles and they are even using a donated crawfish boiler."
Downtown restaurant La Volpe is closed for the day
Jack Allen's Kitchen locations and Holy Roller are open following Monday's closures
Enoteca Vespaio announced the following on Facebook: "We are adhering to The City of Austin’s water regulations. We are not offering tap water, sodas, espresso drinks, coffee, radicchio or frisée. All of our other lettuces arrive to us pre-washed, so salads are still being offered."
Counter Culture announced in the afternoon that it was closed for the day.
Hillside Farmacy has closed for the day and posted the following message on Facebook: "Due to the fresh water shortage in Austin, we will be closing for the rest of the day. We received water & ice deliveries this morning but do not have enough for dinner service today. We apologize for any inconvenience."
Shoal Creek Saloon closed at 2 p.m. and posted the following on Facebook: "We will be closing early today Monday, October 22 at 2 PM due to the City of Austin boiled water notice. We will keep our phone message, Facebook page and website up-to-date on when we plan on re-opening."
Whisler's is closed all day.
Winebelly posted the following message on Facebook: Winebelly WILL BE OPEN today at 4pm. We are taking all of the necessary precautions to ensure the safety and health of our customers during the water boil ordinance. Some select menu items may be unavailable, but we have plenty of wine and really, what more do you need?!
District Kitchen + Cocktails and sister restaurant Oasthouse Kitchen + Bar have turned off the ice machines and will be serving bottled water along with limited packaged sodas. They are outsourcing and will have clean ice starting tomorrow.
Wheatsville Food Co-op has suspended all food production, including deli, food bar, salad bar, and coffee until the boil water notice has been lifted. Production in the produce department, Bakehouse, and meat department has also been suspended. The store will remain open regular hours 7:30 a.m. – 11p.m. for all other items.
All Freebirds World Burrito locations are still open for business. They are following the Texas Department of Health and Human Services Policies on this matter. Every Austin-area location is boiling all water and/or using bottled water in their cooking processes as necessary. At this time, they are not serving fountain beverage, tea or ice. Bottled beverages, including bottled water, are available.
Vinaigrette released the following statement: "Vinaigrette will be open. We are using bottled water for drinking and boiling water for prep and kitchen use.”
Pluckers Tweeted the following: "Our Austin locations should be open! We'll be using bottled drinks and disposable plates and utensils!"
The Soup Peddler released the following statement: "Soup Peddler is closed for business on 10/22 and will open all locations 10/23 at 10:00 a.m. for soup, salad, and sandwich service only. Unfortunately, the juice and smoothie portion of our menu cannot be produced safely under these restrictions."
Bangers Tweeted the following: "WE ARE OPEN! We're taking all necessary precautions, boiling water and ordering bottled water. There may be some unforeseen limitations on menu items, but for now we think we'll be able to serve everything!"
Rosewood restaurant released the following statement: "Rosewood is taking the necessary precautions during the city-wide boil water notice to ensure all of our food and drinks are safely prepared. In addition to bringing in bottled water and ice from outside of Austin, we are using boiled water and/or bottled water for all hand- and ware-washing."
The Brewer’s Table released the following statement: "The Brewer’s Table will be open today, and is adhering to all standard food safety operations as well as the city’s recommendations during the citywide water boil notice. We are fortunate to have a large brewery and a brew kettle that can boil 230 gallons at a time, and will use that water for the time being."
W Austin and TRACE released the following statement: "W Austin and TRACE will remain open for business as usual. The team is boiling all water used for consumption including coffee, tea, etc. and all dishes will sanitized in boiling water. The hotel and restaurant will provide complimentary bottled water for all guests."
Hai Hospitality, the parent company of Uchi, Uchiko and Loro released the following statement: All Hai Hospitality restaurants are taking the necessary precautions during the city-wide boil water notice to ensure the food and drinks are safely prepared according to the City of Austin guidelines for safe water . We have purchased bottled water from safe sources, trucked in ice from outside of Austin and are using boiled water and/or bottled water for all hand- and ware-washing. During the city-wide boil water notice, Loro will be offering canned sodas in addition to our beer, wine, cocktails, bottled lemonade and tea, which is made using boiled filtered water.
Hat Creek Burgers Tweeted: "Due to the Austin Water boil-water notice, the following Hat Creek restaurants are closed temporarily: Dripping Springs, Domain Rock Rose, Burnet, Westlake, and Lakeway. We hope to be open for business by 5pm!"
Magnolia Cafe West was closed for the day as of 10 a.m.
Thai Fresh is only offering stir fry menu items for dine in and to-go for lunch and dinner today until further notice due to the water boil.
The Chick-fil-A on Texas 71 near I-35 is one of the businesses in town that has to decided to remain and open serving a limited menu, but service will only be available only via drive-thru until further notice.
Wild Chix & Waffles will remain open on Monday. The restaurant is "taking all preventative measure, including boiling all water that’s needed for any consumption, running dishes through dishwasher instead of washing manually, etc."
This is a developing story; check back for updates.