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Diners wary of tap water for cooking

DANVILLE, W.Va. -- Betty Dolin is saving every receipt from purchasing bottled water for her business. Dolin is a co-owner of Park Avenue Restaurant in Danville located in Boone County. The community staple known for its country cooking and friendly faces had to close for three and half days after the Jan. 9 chemical leak that contaminated water in nine West Virginia counties.

Beyond Charleston the story remains the same for restaurants.

"People don't trust the water," Dolin said.

And that's why Dolin is bearing the financial burden of providing bottled water for cooking, washing and drinking for the restaurant.

"They ask us when they come if we are using bottled water," said Judy Akers, who works at Park Avenue. "That's why I put the note on the door."

Like other restaurants in the affected counties, Park Avenue was closed by orders from the health department. The restaurant opened back up with a very limited menu on Monday.

They served sandwiches with paper plates and cups. Not the "table food" such as biscuits and gravy or fried liver customers come in for, Akers said.

Dolin isn't sure how much the situation will impact the business.

"We've felt the impact though," Dolin said. "I never thought anything like that would happen."

Despite not getting many customers when they were serving just sandwiches Akers was happy to be back working.

"I have to work. I'm on a fixed income. I'm a widow," Akers said.

Akers missed a week of work because of the water situation. She estimates losing at least $200 in wages. The restaurant is her main source of income.

"It's really going to impact my money situation. Everything is going to be behind," Akers said. "I couldn't sleep [because] I was worrying about bills."

Akers has worked there for 13 years and has never missed that much work.

On Friday they went back to serving a full menu, but Akers isn't serving as many people as she would like.

"It's always slow in January after Christmas, but it's worse now," Akers said.

The restaurant has water and ice delivered daily and if needed, workers will go get more. Cook Mazie Dalton estimates they're using around 75 gallons of water per day for the operation.

"It's a royal pain," Dalton said of not being able to cook with tap water. "It's more of a headache because you have to keep changing the water."

Dalton said the overall process is taking longer but that's OK because she's scared of using the tap water to cook with at home, too. She's up everyday at 4:30 a.m. and walks to work to prepare the restaurant's kitchen operation.

"We go after water I don't even know how many times because people don't want anything cooked in this dag-on tap water, nothing," Dalton said.

Jimmy Barry stopped in Park Avenue on his way to work for some biscuits and gravy, eggs and bacon.

The West Madison resident often stops in for breakfast.

"I'm glad they're using bottled water," Barry said. "This is a lot easier than cooking at home."

Park Avenue doesn't have an idea when it will return to using tap water.

"We've done everything we know to do," Dolin said. "It's going to take a long time to get customers' trust back." 

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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