Jackson Restaurant owners say they simply cannot afford for the water problem to continue.
Over 46 Jackson restaurant owners, operators and chefs have set a letter to Jackson City officials as well as Hinds County and Mississippi state elected officials, begging for a solution to the city’s continued water woes.
The letter cites two water outages and three boil water notices in just over one year.
“We need transparency,” the letter outlines. “Some cities had to have deaths from dysentery of cholera before action was taken. We pray it won’t take something as tragic as that to lead to solutions in our city.”
These restauranteurs explain to officials that every time these issues arise there is a dramatic drop in sales because customers decline to dine in Jackson eateries during the notices for fear that they are unsafe.
In order for restaurants to maintain safe dining during these boil water notices or outages, they are forced to add additional operating methods to ensure safe operations, some which include:
- Obtaining ice from water safe sources – sometimes as far away as Meridian.
- Boiling and/or purchasing water to prepare food and drink items, to wash pots, pans, dishes and utensils, and even to comply with basic food safety – to wash hands.
- Purchasing canned soft drinks, as their fountain soda machines are inoperable.
- Many times, stopping coffee and tea service completely, as the water for each must be boiled prior to brewing.
On Monday, Executive Director for the Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association Pat Fontaine said that Jackson restaurants are spending an additional $500-$700 more daily on these items in order to serve customers safely.
Chef Pierre Pryer Sr. of Iron Horse Grill said there is not only a financial toll placed on these businesses, but a mental stress that employees endure with added physically taxing work to make up for the unusable water supply.
Steven O’Neill of the Manship Wood Fired Kitchen asked all the owners present at the MHRA press event if they had been approached by commercial properties outside of Jackson to move their businesses. Everyone in attendance raised their hand, including O’Neill.
The letter sent to officials begged for solutions and pointed out that there were not enough financial resources in the industry to continue operating under these constant water issues. Such constant issues put these small businesses at an increased risk of closure, coupled with the current economic inflation.