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Jackson, Mississippi water crisis 'extremely dire' for local businesses

Tanya Barnes was preparing for a private event starting in about an hour when the water stopped Monday afternoon at her restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi. All of a sudden, the dishwasher stopped working and the toilet wouldn’t flush either.

“How do you host something for people when you can’t flush the toilet?” This is Barnes, manager of BRAVO!. The Italian restaurant and bar told ABC News. She canceled the event.

“We have not been in business since then,” she said.

The restaurant is one of many in Jackson, according to interviews with local business leaders, and the city has suffered after a week of near-full operation with little to no water.

They say the city has been under boil notices for more than a month, with businesses responsible for disinfecting water and finding alternatives, while customers are calling back to shop. Fear of service that the business may lack.

In an interview with ABC News Live on Tuesday, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the current crisis stems from deferred maintenance for up to 30 years and a lack of capital investment in the system.

“Every year, we have hotter summers, colder winters and more precipitation, putting a huge strain on our infrastructure,” he said.

The recent crisis only adds to the difficulty as businesses incur high costs for repairs such as portable toilets and on-site water tanks, or temporarily close doors entirely.

A city of about 150,000 people, Jackson’s gross domestic product exceeds $28 billion, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba takes questions from members of the media during a press conference March 8, 2021 in Jackson, Mississippi.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Jeff Rent, president and CEO of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, which boasts about 1,400 member companies, said about 75 businesses contacted him this week concerned about the impact of water shortages. “It’s very tragic,” he said of the crisis.

Many employees living in cities are unable to shower, businesses that need clean water often have to buy it, and face-to-face workplaces lack functioning toilets for customers and employees. The shortage is likely to affect nearly all of Jackson’s businesses because of the need, he added. .

“If you’re doing business in Jackson, this has made an impact on you,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gotta Go Site Service Rentals, which rents out mobility equipment such as portable toilets and hand-washing stations, has seen a surge in demand, owner Lauren McGraw told ABC News.

“We’ve been overwhelmed,” she said, adding that the company has been contacted by hundreds of new clients since Monday.

The company, which employs 18 people and currently rents facilities at the state capitol, has purchased hundreds of additional toilets from a supplier in Georgia to meet the surge in demand, McGraw said. said. All employees, like McGraw, are working overtime, she added.

The company also raised prices. Prices fluctuate a lot, but overall they are up about 50%. McGraw said this partly explains the rising costs as the company survives additional work.

Despite the exponential growth of her company’s business, McGraw laments the disastrous reasons behind it.

“It’s not fun because we want to provide great service,” she said.

Photo: Sept. 1, 2022, the campus of Millsaps College in Midtown Jackson, Mississippi, has a multi-stall portable restroom to serve the remaining 200 students living in dormitories.

On September 1, 2022, the campus of Millsaps College in Midtown Jackson, Mississippi, will have a multi-stall portable toilet to serve the remaining 200 students living in dormitories.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

Stephen O’Neill, co-owner of two Jackson-area restaurants, The Manship and Aplos, said he needed a quick solution when the water stopped at his restaurant while customers were eating Monday afternoon. I noticed that. The restaurant informed customers of the water shortage, let them finish their meals, and closed for the day, he said.

The two restaurants reopened the following morning and have remained open ever since. To that end, the company has purchased portable toilets and hand-washing stations, plastic plates and cutlery for customers to use, and water tanks to pour clean water into the restaurant, O’Neill said.

However, restaurant traffic is drying up, forcing businesses to increase costs and reduce revenue. His Aplos sales this week he’s down 30%. 50% down on The Manship. The company is barely breaking even, he said.

O’Neil has retained all of his staff, but he said he may have to “make some difficult decisions” soon.

“It’s a horrible situation,” he said.

When asked by Jackson if he would remove the restaurant entirely, he said, “It’s difficult. I haven’t made that decision yet.”