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

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Restaurants and food establishments who get their water from Memphis Light, Gas and Water have been ordered by the Shelby County Health Department to close if they cannot properly treat it before use or use bottled water.

On Friday, Dr. Bruce Randolph said these establishments will be closed until MLGW’s Boil Water Advisory has been lifted. It’s unclear at this point when this will be.

When water pressure is low, bacteria and sewage can seep into the pipes, causing gastroenterological issues with symptoms like diarrhea, fever and sometimes vomiting. The biggest risk is to young children and the elderly who are more susceptible to the spinoff issues caused by dehydration.

This is a common cause of death in third-world countries.

The best way to prevent this is to not drink the water and boil everything that you may consume.

The owners of Bari Ristorante in Overton Square spent their morning stocking up on bottled water and boiling water unsure if they could open for business.

“This isn’t something that should’ve taken this long to make this decision,” said Jason Severs. “They made the announcement yesterday for the boil water situation. They should’ve thought about restaurants a little harder.”

While they agree with the health department’s desire to address safety concerns, they’re also worried about making ends meet during a time when many businesses are already struggling due to COVID-19.

“We need to open now. Out rent’s still due, our utility bills are still due, our payrolls still due. We’ve got to figure out something,” Severs said.

As closures due to this week’s winter weather and now boil water advisory have presented another setback, but one they will endure as the have every other challenge in this last year.

“We’re all in it together as a restaurant family and as a Memphis family. So, we’ll deal with it. It sucks but what are you going to do?” Severs said.

Water issues have plagued Memphis for the past week with the company issuing a Boil Water Notice for some 257,000 customers on Thursday. The notice was issued due to recent water main breaks and freezing temperatures, which caused low water pressure in MLGW’s water system, the utility said.

The problems have also forced passenger flights to be canceled at the Memphis airport and FedEx to make adjustments at the Hub.

The health department first announced that restaurants would close under the order, but later clarified that they could remain open if they could comply with the boil order and provide bottled water.

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