Here's how New Orleans hotels, restaurants are handling the boil water advisory
Jennifer Larino | NOLA Media Group, New Orleans | September 21, 2017 2:54pm
Sept. 20--As residents in New Orleans figure out how the Wednesday morning (Sept. 20) boil water advisory for the east bank affects them and their families, hotels and restaurants in the city are getting hit with a double whammy -- having to be the front lines of information on the water situation for tens of thousands of visitors in the city while also working to safely serve everyone.
Kristian Sonnier, spokesman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said in an email the city's roughly 1,110 hotels, restaurants and attractions are well-versed in how to deal with boil water advisories.
Hotels have bottled water on hand, post messages about the advisory for guests, and have concierges and other staff ready to answer questions. Many local restaurants pay to have special water systems installed or have an alternate water supply on hand to continue cooking and serving drinks to visitors.
"Unfortunately, we have done this often enough to where we and our members now know how to handle it," Sonnier said.
Still, he said boil water advisories hurt New Orleans tourism.
"Boil water advisories, and other events like this, shake our visitors' confidence in our claim that we are a world class city," Sonnier said. "We hope S&WB can improve its infrastructure soon to make these a thing of the past."
The Sewerage & Water Board issued a precautionary boil water advisory Wednesday morning for the east bank of Orleans Parish after a "power fluctuation" at a key plant caused a temporary drop in water pressure throughout the city. The advisory includes the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East.
City officials are advising everyone in the affected areas to boil water for a full minute in a clean container before consuming it or cooking with it, and to be careful not to swallow water while bathing. The city also recommends using an alternate drinking water source and soap to wash hands.
City officials last issued a boil water advisory for the entire east bank Sept. 23, 2015 after a power surge at the Carrollton Water Plant. It was the second of two advisories issued in the span of three months that year.
Steve Pettus, owner and managing partner at Dickie Brennan & Co., which operates Bourbon House Seafood, Dickie Brennan Steakhouse, Palace Cafe and Tableau, said the restaurant group called general managers and chefs early Wednesday morning to start preparing for a boil water advisory after an employee reported their child's daycare facility was closed after experiencing low water pressure.
Pettus said its restaurants run through a checklist of tasks in case of advisories, including bringing in employees to begin boiling water for the kitchen and unpacking stores of canned soda (fountain machines rely on tap water). Each restaurant stores boiled water in large five-gallon jugs topped with specialized hand pumps to allow kitchen staff to fill pots and pans more quickly. Staff uses hand sanitizer to clean their hands.
Pettus said diners who don't already know about the boil water advisory usually find out when there isn't table water waiting for them.
"They're asking 'Does this always happen?'" Pettus said. "We tell them it happens occasionally."
Pettus said the process is costly, not just in money spent on supplies and labor, but also in brand damage for New Orleans.
In tourism, impressions weigh heavy. Visitors caught up in a boil water advisory may tell stories when they get home about the New Orleans water quality debacle, instead of the great jazz show they caught or the delicious meal they ate.
Pettus said Dickie Brennan restaurants serve conventioneers and visitors who have the option to go to other cities, but chose to come here.
"Every time something like this happens it takes the wind out of your sails a little bit," Pettus said.
The boil water advisory remains in effect for the east bank of Orleans Parish until further notice as the Sewerage & Water Board and Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals test water samples.