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Locals Campaign for Impromptu ‘Restaurant Week’ Once Poway’s Boil Advisory is Lifted

Poway residents took to social media to plan an impromptu Restaurant Week to help businesses and workers recover lost profits

In typical Poway fashion, residents patiently waiting for the state to lift a Precautionary Boil Water Advisory are already formulating a plan to help restaurants recover their losses once water is running.

The advisory was put in place Saturday, one day after residents reported "discolored water" coming from their taps.

Residents were directed to boil tap water before consumption and all restaurants and food preparation facilities within city limits were told by the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) to suspend service until the advisory is lifted.

Fearful of the impact the advisory would have on industry employees and city-wide economics, Poway residents took to social media to plan an impromptu Restaurant Week to help businesses and workers recover.

“With the usual slow week of Thanksgiving and the pressures of the holiday season, let’s help them out with the days they are missing. Once the boil water advisory is lifted, visit one of Poway’s restaurants for breakfast, lunch or dinner and make sure to leave a big tip!” Heidi Davis's post shared in a Poway community Facebook page read.

Becca Sherman, a waitress at the Hamburger Factory, said she didn’t work Sunday and may lose tips Tuesday if the order isn’t lifted.

“We had Christmas parties booked and they're already cancelling to go to other restaurants just to make sure they're open,” Sherman said. “It’s definitely going to hurt us. They say it can be anywhere from two to five days. We're hoping it doesn't go much past that.”

Davis, a mother of three, is dealing wiht the issue at home, but knows others whose livelihoods are impacted are fighting a different battle. That's why she tried to rally San Diego.

"I know people who live paycheck to paycheck who work in a restaurant and I can only think of, like, how are they gonna afford their rent this month and how are they gonna afford getting their kids presents?" Davis told NBC 7.

Davis urged readers to share and spread the word so the whole county could get involved. She's gotten replies from countless people vowing their supportand has even heard from out-of-towners who want to help.

The city’s water met state standards as of Monday but the city was still waiting for the state to lift the advisory, city spokesperson confirmed.

Water testing since the incident has only showed discoloration and never bacterial contamination, according to Poway Mayor Steve Vaus.

“Actually the water is well within our standards for drinking. I’m still drinkin’ it, but the State, they’re a little more skittish. Sacramento works in strange ways, so we’re giving out water to make sure our folks are taken care of,” Mayor Vaus said.

Some businesses, like In-n-Out have found ways to get around the shortfall. The eatery received a modified health permit from the DEH that allows them to cook anything that doesn't rely on water.

While they are able to cook burger patties, their toppings have to be brought in from other stores. Instead of french fries, patrons are offered chips. 

Employees are boiling water for washing dishes and potable water was brought in for handwashing.

DEH spokespersoin Mike Workman said they inspected the eatery and all the modifications are up to their standards. 

Vaus and city leaders planned to look at ways they can help local business recover once the advisory is lifted.

“My heart goes out to the restaurants and the workers at those restaurants. We feel their pain,” Vaus said. “I’ve talked to some [businesses] who’ve said they have business interruption insurance, but we want to make them whole and get their folks working again.”

The advisory impacted everyday staples like Starbucks as well as local mom and pop-owned favorites.

Kaminsky’s BBQ was able to serve customers who came to watch Monday Night Football by finding a way around using city water. They filled their food truck with water from another city and used it to serve and prepare food, and wash dishes. They also “imported” ice and a handwashing station from outside the city, and served canned soda and bottled water.

"[The water] is not safe to use the water for consumption, food preparation, or washing dishes," the county said.

Restaurants must flush all water lines, purge beverage and ice machines connected to the water systems, throw away old ice, sanitize all items that may have been in contact with the water and discard all potentially contaminated food, according to the county notice.

A city spokesperson confirmed Monday a storm drain backed up into the water treatment facility's clearwell reservoir during last week's three-day storm, which made the water unpotable.

The city was “following the state’s playbook,” and there was no update for when the advisory would be lifted, Vaus said on air with NBC 7 Monday evening.

“We’re going to come together like we always do. We’ve faced much tougher challenges in Poway and we’re going to get through this,” the mayor said.

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