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Boil water advisory forces restaurants to operate without clean, running water

The Steak-N-Egg on Wisconsin Avenue is taking a series of precautions to make sure it can stay open 24-7.

WASHINGTON — People in parts of D.C. and Arlington are facing a Boil Water Advisory, potentially for the entire weekend, after a water main break on Route 123 Friday morning. For restaurant owners, that means if they need to use running water to cook or clean, they have to boil it first.

As one can imagine, that poses some challenges.

The owners of the Steak-N-Egg on Wisconsin Avenue are used to facing off against Mother Nature, or conditions beyond their control.

"We been here [during the] blizzard of '96," owner Osmon Barrie said. "We were the only thing that was open in the city. The city was closed, people skiing on the street, and we were open."

Barrie said they also stayed open during multiple hurricanes that ripped through the District..

He plans to keep his doors open -- 24/7 as usual -- during this advisory.

Credit: Jesse Varner
The Steak-N-Egg on Wisconsin Avenue is staying open during the weekend's Boil Water Advisory.

RELATED: Boil Water Advisory issued for DC, Arlington through Sunday after water main break on Route 123

However, as of Friday at 8:30 p.m., Barrie said there were more empty stools than usual. He believes the cold is part of the reason, but that the advisory definitely deterred others.

"They call and say, 'hey did the water affect you?' and we say 'yes,' and I have to stand there and explain, because they want to know if they come here if they’re going to be safe," Barrie said. 

Barrie said he has taken every precaution he could think of to make sure his customers will stay safe. 

  • He said they raised the water temperatures to 213 or 214 degrees to boil water.
  • They bought gallons of water from Giant to use in their pancake and waffle mix.
  • They bought ice to use for drinks instead of using the city water ice.
  • He has instructed cooks to wear gloves, so they aren't washing their hands in the contaminated water.
  • They're handing out free bottles of water to customers, since they can't serve it from the tap.
  • They also abandoned the broken soda fountain machine in favor of cans of soda, which means some types will not be offered throughout the weekend.
Credit: Jess Arnold
The owner of the Steak-N-Egg bought water bottles to give customers during the Boil Water Advisory.

Other restaurants in the area said they too had swapped out tap water for bottles of water during the advisory.

Even though extra hours of operation for Steak-N-Egg means dealing with the water problems longer, Barrie said he is determined to uphold the promise displayed in their window.

"We try to keep the tradition of 24-hour reliability," he said.

RELATED: Water main break shuts down part of 16th Street Northwest

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