After surviving almost 22 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, several B.C. restaurants are starting the new year with closures that could last weeks – after water pipes froze and burst during the December cold snap.
Inside DD Mau Chinatown, blower fans are blasting and bags of damaged items pile up as the family-owned Vietnamese restaurant awaits the insurance estimate for an unexpected and costly restoration.
“There was just water flowing from every single angle,” said owner Kim Tran.
The day before New Year’s Eve, Tran received a frantic call from staff, who told her the panels in the kitchen’s T-bar ceiling had fallen through – unleashing a torrent.
After fighting to stay open amid COVID-19 restrictions, neighbourhood decline and two recent Omicron-related shutdowns, a frozen pipe had burst in the business upstairs – flooding her entire street-level eatery.
“I felt so defeated,” Tran told Global News.
“The last two years of doing whatever was in my power to keep the business alive, stay afloat – and then that happened.”
Drowning in ankle-deep water, Tran and her staff grabbed brooms and formed an assembly line to sweep the deluge out the front door – before setting up fans and heaters and hoping for the best.
Her restaurant was not the only one submerged.
Sprezzatura owner Michael Parker said his Mount Pleasant establishment was soaked in mid-December when a sprinkler head burst under low temperatures.
“It was insane,” he told Global News.
The building’s sprinkler system is above his pizza oven, and it took a while to turn the sprinklers off as they couldn’t immediately find the isolation valve.
“We had to wait until fourteen floors of water rained out of the sprinkler system,” said Parker.
Sprezzatura was forced to cancel 150 reservations heading into what would have been one of the busiest weeks ever for the Italian restaurant that opened in July 2019.
So far, Parker said the flood has drained them of between $200,000 to a quarter of a million dollars in revenue and put 35 employees out of work.
The oven, which fuels more than 70 per cent of their orders, was severely damaged and requires major repairs.
Due to supply chain issues, Parker said the parts will take weeks, if not months, to arrive.
He’s aiming to reopen at the end of February but fears losing staff may further delay that date.
In South Surrey, Bryan Mendiola said the pipes at his popular takeout restaurant froze on Dec. 28, then burst hours later.
“When I opened the door, it was like a waterfall,” he told Global News.
Firefighters helped shut the water off and shovel the floodwaters out of The Carvery Sandwich Shop but Mendiola said the damage is much worse than predicted, and repairs will take up to three months with pandemic supply delays and worker shortages.
“My biggest fear is losing my current staff,” said Mendiola.
“We’re just trying to survive.”
While all three restaurateurs have insurance, the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association is hoping patrons will support them as they work through no cash flow to get back in business.
“From a supply perspective with plumbers and people to just respond to this – that’s a lot of stress on the system right now,” said president and CEO Ian Tostenson.
Tran said she can’t fathom losing her employees and has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for her team’s lost wages until her restaurant can reopen.
“December was a hard hit for us,” Tran said.
“There’s no way we’re going to be able to survive another one or two months waiting for rebuilding.”
So far, Tran said overwhelming community support is giving her hope that DD Mau can come back better than ever.