Businesses, restaurants close as water crisis grinds Wichita to a halt

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Wichita boil-water advisory

A major Wichita water main failure on Thursday afternoon prompted the Kansas Department of Heath and Environment (KSDHE) to issue a boil water advisory to the city and other users of its water supply system.

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Wichita hotels, gas stations and restaurants had a scattershot approach to the city’s boil water advisory Thursday evening after a main water line broke around 4 p.m.

Restaurants were already struggling with staffing problems and shortages of supplies. They had to make tough decisions about whether or not to stay open on Thursday. Many decided to close.

All Chipotle restaurants in Wichita closed at 8:00 PM. Fairmount Coffee Co., 3815 E. 17th St. North, also closed early. Buffalo Wings & Rings, 2636 N Greenwich Road.

Both Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and Social Tap, which operate at Braeburn Square on the WSU campus, closed those locations earlier in the day because they had no water at all.

Justin Neel, owner of Social Tap, said that the water service was eventually restored. However, he was thankful that he called earlier.

“I probably would have still shut down tonight to make sure we are doing everything correctly according to KDH or city guidelines,”He said. “This is certainly new to me in this industry, at least here in the Wichita area.”

Many owners of other restaurants chose to remain open and found themselves racing around town competing with residents for rapidly disappearing water or ice supplies.

Jill Rose, spokesperson, stated that Side Pockets, a bar/billiards venue at 614 S. Tyler Road could remain open. Their ice machines had drained a large supply of water before the main break. They had plenty of bottled water and juices to last them through the night.

“They’re doing that so they can stay open,”She spoke.

Employees who were instructed to use hand soap after washing their hands with tap water were asked to do the same. Rose said that the restaurant’s general manager, Lori Conner, said she’d never seen a situation like it in her 13 years there.

Old Town also felt the pain.

“The punches keep coming and we are rolling with them,”River City Brewing Company’s Facebook post had lots of information. “clean beer and alcohol to drink.”The post asked customers for patience if they visited Thursday evening.

“We will do our best,”The post was read. “Let’s keep our chin up and best wishes to the hard working folks trying to fix the problem.”

KDHE’s advisory included instructions for restaurants and other food establishments that had questions about the boil water advisory and its impact on business to contact the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s food safety and lodging program at [email protected] or at 785-564-6767.

Hotels, gas stations and gyms

Although the HyattRegency Wichita has turned off its water supply, De Williams, the front office manager, stated that there is still water available for guests to bathe and shower in. “Once the water tanks are empty, then we will be out of water like everybody else.”

Hyatt guests receive free water bottles

“We’re passing out bottles of water for them to brush their teeth,”Williams stated. Williams said that there will be “as many as they need until the problem is fixed.”Williams stated that water to ice machines have been turned off, but that clean ice is still available in the machines. “so that has been very helpful.”

At QuikTrip, the drinks are still flowing, but they’re freshly made ones.

“We’re going to purge all of our ice, coffee, frozen drinks and tea and make them fresh,”Aisha Jefferson Smith, communications manager at the Tulsa-based company, said this.

She said the company isn’t taking further action “because it’s an advisory right now.”

“So if our water isn’t showing brown, that means our water should be safe.”

She said that each store is different. “flushing through all the water.”

“We’re definitely doing this out of safety precaution,”Jefferson-Smith said. “As QuikTrippers, we want to make sure we take care of our customers and make sure they’re safe.”

Only drinking water was affected at the YMCAs.

“Right now, we have just shut down our drinking fountains,”Shamain Bachman, vice-president of marketing. “That is the only change that we have made at this point.”

She stated that there is no problem for members to use locker rooms or swim in the pools. “It’s just with actual drinking water.”Water fountains at the Sedgwick county Zoo are also closed.

“We’ve got plenty of bottled water to sell at the restaurants and to use for food,”Jennica King is director of strategic communication.

The zoo’s restrooms and food services use city water, but the water used in the animal areas is well water, so the animals are not affected.

This story was originally published in October 7, 2021 at 6:29 pm

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