Restaurateur on boil water notice: 'we have heard nothing from Irish Water'

‘This is really a problem now,’ says Skerries restaurateur as boil-water notice in force ahead of bank holiday weekend

Low stocks of water in Lidl, Castleknock, due to the boil water notice. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Low stocks of water in Lidl, Castleknock, due to the boil water notice. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Lisa Nealon looks out at the rain dashing off the Irish Sea from inside one of her two restaurants, doors apart, on Skerries harbour, in north county Dublin. “Water, water everywhere . . . and not a drop to drink,” she says.

There were 130 diners in her Blue Bar waterfront eaterie on Tuesday evening when she learned that the running water was polluted and not safe for public consumption.

A member of staff spotted something about it on Facebook.

“Immediately we stopped serving all our water,” she says. “We have invested in a filtered system so we can serve still and sparkling water free to our customers, but we can’t even use that. We couldn’t serve any ice in the drinks.

“Because our filtered water is usually free, we didn’t have any bottled water.”

A number of diners grumbled. “There were guests saying this is ridiculous, saying they don’t drink soft drinks.”

By Wednesday, there was still no contact from Irish Water, and her second restaurant on the harbour, 5 Rock, was also opening for the rest of the week.

Since then they have been sourcing bottled water and ice everyday, while huge pots are boiling off water from 7.30 am in both kitchens, throughout the day, until closing time.

“We are busy restaurants. Tonight, we’ll have around 400 covers. Everything is prepared in-house here, everything,” she says.

“It all has to go through water that has been boiled. If you walk into our kitchen now, there are four big pots on the go, which we will have to let cool down, and then we go and do it again. The pots are on the go all day.”

Nealon was sure the problem would be resolved ahead of what is expected to a busy bank holiday weekend, with up to 2,000 customers expected, depending on the weather, some of them coming from as far as Northern Ireland.

“This is really a problem now,” she says. “Everything is really tricky for a busy bank holiday weekend. I don’t know what it is going to cost us as yet — but it will be a large expense.”

Daily deliveries of 15 large bags of ice — costing more than €100 a time — are already starting to add up in terms of costs. Weekend supplies have to be ordered by Friday. Even if the tap water was cleared for use, she would be out of pocket by buying in bottled water that is then not needed.

“Guests are getting very upset too that we are not able to provide them with free water. There’s that impact alone on the staff and management, with unhappy guests.”

Nealon pays Irish Water around €700 every three months for the supply. “It’s not cheap,” she says, adding supplies are cut off three or four times a year for one reason or another, including burst pipes.

They had no water on the May bank holiday weekend this year and gets no rebate or compensation for her utility service being disrupted.

“We’re still being metered. Although we are taking the water, we can’t use it, unless it is boiled. Commercial premises should be compensated in some shape or form,” she says.

“And we have heard nothing from Irish Water — nothing in the post, nothing through email. We are finding out everything through the newspaper or staff on Facebook.

“You’d expect some contingency plan to let businesses know what is happening. We are looking into a bank holiday weekend and we don’t know when we’ll have water back.”