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The water crisis in Jackson has restaurants scrambling to stay open


As the water crisis in Jackson, Miss., heads into its fourth day, some restaurants have shut down. Others say they are struggling to stay open as their costs skyrocket. As Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Maya Miller reports, restaurants were already suffering from the city's water woes before this latest calamity.

MAYA MILLER, BYLINE: Soule' coffee and bubble tea is in Jackson's historic arts district. Inside, the design is minimalist, with clean lines and work from Black artists on the wall.


MILLER: Ezra Brown opened Soule' about a month ago. Even in that short time, he's grown tired of Jackson's water problems.

EZRA BROWN: Eighty-five to 90% of our drinks in this area are iced.

MILLER: When Soule' opened, the city was already under a boil water notice due to potentially contaminated water.

BROWN: If you've got a boil alert - so we actually have to get our ice from another city 'cause we're rolling through 100-plus pounds of ice every single day; a hundred-plus pounds of ice and not including the water. So if you want a lemonade, if you want a green tea, you want all this kind of stuff, that's all bottled water that we have to have.

MILLER: Dozens of Jackson restaurant owners wrote a letter to Mississippi's governor and Jackson's mayor even before this current crisis. They said these repeated boil water orders and outages were costing them hundreds of dollars a day. And now they say it's even worse, since the water treatment plant failed earlier this week.

Pat Fontaine heads Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association. He says restaurants in Jackson are losing customers.

PAT FONTAINE: There's, you know, some fear of the water supply not being fit for consumption, so they choose to go to outlying cities that do not have the boil water notice.

MILLER: And don't have porta potties - some Jackson restaurants have had to rent them since their toilets won't flush because of the low water pressure. Jackson's mayor estimates it will cost a billion dollars to fix the city's water system. In the meantime, it's still not clear when the water will be safe enough to drink. Ezra Brown says he's doing all he can to make his new cafe successful, but he needs the city and state to do their part.

BROWN: Now I need you all to do you all job. Give me clean water.

MILLER: While Brown waits for that clean tap water, about 600 members of the National Guard are working with the city to pass out bottled water to some 180,000 residents.

For NPR News, I'm Maya Miller. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Maya Miller
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