‘Wine is flowing freely’: Restaurants, bars adapt as citywide boil water notice stays in effect

HOUSTON – Houston bars and restaurants are taking steps to stay open amid a mandatory boil water notice.

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the notice Thursday night, and he expects to lift it Saturday morning. Kingwood and Clear Lake are excluded from the boil water notice. The state requires cities to issue boil water notices when the water pressure drops and harmful bacteria and microbes can form, which is the case in Houston.

Officials said the water is safe for doing laundry and bathing, but not for drinking or cooking.

The notice has been a major readjustment for people and businesses in the city. Several businesses in Houston have posted signs on their doors warning customers of the notice.

D’Amico’s Italian Market Café in Rice Village ran out of bottled water Friday night, said owner Brina D’Amico.

“We’re not serving tap water and obviously we’re not serving any ice unless somebody wants to take their own risk then we’re letting them, but we’re not going to do it on our accord,” he said.

D’Amico also said business is down, but she blames that on the Houston Rodeo cook-off.

Starbucks in Rice Village is only serving bottled water and pre-packaged food items.

Shake Shack is offering customers an alternative to washing hands with the water in the bathroom.

“They had served hand wipes instead of functional water. Signs saying don’t use the tap water,” said customer Nakhil Balasueramanyam.

Ice is a hot commodity in Houston, Prego’s Restaurant managing partner David Cook said. He said they are one of the lucky few who have any at all.

“We do bring in these nice hand-formed, three-inch by three-inch cubes of ice that are really used for your higher-end Scotch and Bourbon, but that’s what we’re working with now for almost all of our cocktails that we can make,” Cook said.

The ration on ice is pushing customers to different beverages, he said.

“Wine is flowing freely,” said Cook. “So, that’s a good thing!”

Present Company, a popular establishment in Montrose, greeted customers with a sign that read: “We have water.”

The bar said it threw out all of its ice and has stopped using its soda machines because they are hooked up to city water lines in order to comply with the boil water notice guideline.

”We got 1,600 pounds of ice yesterday, more coming today,” said beverage director Rex Nielsen.

Once the ice arrives, the bar will have enough to get them through the weekend.

For now, the bar is serving a limited cocktail menu. They are encouraging drinks that don’t require ice, like beers, wine or serving drinks neat, meaning without ice. Bartenders are also using canned soda or bottled sparkling water to make due for now.

”I guess the biggest impact for us is the (soda) spritzers on the bar,” Nielsen said. “We’re so used to using those, and we had to turn the water off on those.“

Another restaurant in Montrose, Sweetgreen had a sign on its door saying they were taking the day off.

In homes, Houstonians are putting their pots to good use.

“I started with just like two big soup pots,” said Montrose resident Steven Baker.

He boiled water for his mother, who is recovering from knee surgery at her home. In his own home, he is relying on bottled water.

”Just the bottled water that we’ve had,” Baker said. “Brushing our teeth and doing things besides showering.”