Some Shelby County restaurants close, others remain open after new health directive, boil water advisory

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many restaurants across Shelby County are shut down while others found ways to stay open after a new directive from the health department was issued Friday. It requires all restaurants that can’t boil water for food and beverage preparation to close until the advisory is lifted.

Read more: Shelby County Health Department orders restaurants to close if water can’t be properly treated

David Lambert runs Ugly Mug Coffee Co. at Poplar and Perkins in East Memphis. He’s able to stay open thanks to technicians from his parents company who retrofitted the shop to run on a steady supply of five gallon jugs of Glacier water instead of city water. 

“So, we’ve taken the bottled water, and we fastened it to two water pumps,” Lambert said, “In order to run the coffee makers, the espresso machines, the ice machines, the sinks, the bathrooms and everything.”

Pizzeria Trasimeno at the Crosstown Concourse doesn’t have an elaborate contraption like that, but they’re also open. General Manager Douglas Gordon said they were prepared for something like this, thanks to some proactive steps the restaurants took while it was closed during the winter storm.

“We have prepped most of our items days prior to this,” Gordon said, “So, opening up was really exciting for us.”

But there’s little excitement for other restaurants that can’t access fresh water. Many of them posted about their closures on social media Friday. 

“I feel their pain. Like, it’s tough,” Gordon said.

It was also frustrating for restaurant owners who were confused by the health department’s announcement Friday. At noon, officials said all restaurants had to close but then clarified the order just before 2 p.m. At that point, officials said restaurants could stay open under certain conditions. 

Juan Viramontes runs Global Cafe at the Crosstown Concourse. 

“It’s very frustrating,” he said, “You want to know what’s going on.”

His restaurant opened at 11:30am Friday, then closed at 1 p.m. only to reopen at 3:45 p.m.

“And we were able to turn around and get fired up again,” Viramontes said.

At this point, it’s unclear how long the boil water advisory will remain in effect, but it’s expected to last until at least Monday at noon.

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