CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hospitality and retail businesses in Charleston continued to suffer from Thursday's chemical leak, though some restaurants were beginning to reopen with conditional use permits from the Kanawha Charleston Health Department.
Some were allowed to re-open Sunday, providing they submitted an alternative water use plan that did not use tap water.
All restaurants receiving water from the West Virginia American Water plant in Charleston were forced to close under the "do not use" order issued Thursday night. The health department allowed some bars to reopen over the weekend to sell bottled beer.
Bluegrass Kitchen on Charleston's East End was one establishment allowed to reopen its doors on Sunday. Owner Keeley Steele said her restaurant tweaked its menu to avoid using large dishes. Disposable place settings were being used.
"We rewrote our menu down to sandwiches and stuff like that," she said. "Washing dishes is our main issue."
Bluegrass Kitchen also had hand-washing stations in its bathrooms and used clean water to wash cooking utensils.
Other restaurants remained closed though, and the loss of business was taking its toll.
On Charleston's West Side, Mi Cocina de Amor had also applied for a conditional use permit, but was waiting to see if the permit would be approved as of Sunday night.
Frank Gonzales, owner of the popular Mexican restaurant that opened in 2012, said if the permit is granted, his restaurant would be open today, a day it's usually closed.
Gonzales said Mi Cocina de Amor would follow the health department's guidelines and also have a limited menu, including tacos, burritos and grilled items.
"It'll be a good menu," he said.
On Friday, Gonzales expressed concern not only about his restaurant's income, but also about his 10 employees, who were off work without pay.
"Clearly the effect is tremendous," he said Friday evening, going on to say his employees "usually have their biggest day (Friday)."
Most of the food at Mi Cocina de Amor is made from scratch and can't be re-frozen, Gonzales said. The food that had been prepped for weekend specials was given away Saturday. He said the food loss would be "considerable."
"Being a small independent, everything we do is homemade here," Gonzales said Friday. "We had quite a bit of stuff ready for dinner. We'll have to discard a whole bunch of food. We can't refreeze this stuff."
Mi Cocina de Amor closed Thursday evening about 6 p.m. and had to send "quite a few tables" of customers home after the "do not use" order was lifted.
Gonzales said by Friday evening, he had been solicited for lawsuits, though he hadn't yet participated in legal filings. He said he "isn't the kind of individual to file a lawsuit," but wouldn't rule out the possibility in the future.
He also said he didn't think West Virginia American Water is to blame.
"I'm not a big corporate entity - this is my only baby right now," he said. "This is the kind of thing that would put a less strong small business out in a hurry."
The health department is keeping an updated list of reopened restaurants on its website. Restaurants in areas not affected by the "do not use" order - like those in St. Albans - have stayed open throughout the weekend, with some offering clean water for residents to take home.
As restaurants struggle to reopen and retail stores and hotels take a financial hit, some economic promotion agencies in Charleston had already begun to look to what will happen once the water crisis is over.
East End Main Street Director Ric Cavender said his organization is in the process of developing a two-week neighborhood-wide promotion to begin once the "do not use" ban is lifted. The title of the event and details will be released later this week, and Cavender said it's meant to help get businesses back on their feet.
"We're asking each business in the district to offer some discount or sale," he said Sunday. "The general thing is to get back to business in the East End."
Cavender said like everywhere else in the affected area, all restaurants have had to close, though a few were reopening under the conditional use permits.