Aaron Baskerville

Businesses Struggle to Reopen Days After Floods From Water Main Break

At least 14 million gallons washed into one of Center City's busiest restaurant areas

Businesses that were swamped with at least 14 million gallons of water from a Center City water main break Tuesday are still trying to tally their losses and struggling to reopen. 

The water main -- at 48 inches, so large that a young child could stand inside it, and installed in 1927 -- broke at about 4 a.m. at Sansom and Juniper streets. The water poured into the neighborhood's busy bars and restaurants, such as Time, a restaurant, whiskey bar and taproom on Sansom Street.

Time had water at least 4 feet deep in the basement, where it kept beer kegs and stores of liquor. Now, the bar has to throw out dozens of bottles that were contaminated by the water.

Damage could be $100,000. Owner James Evenchik guesses it will take three weeks to reopen, but that's a guess; they are focused on the cleanup and finding work for its staff of about 50 workers.

"Please assume we are closed until further notice," reads a Google post from the restaurant.

Just getting to the businesses is difficult; the break left a caved-in crater at the intersection of Sansom and Juniper that looks like an explosion happened. The area is roped off with orange safety mesh and barricades.

"It's awful. It's a war zone," one shop owner said.

"Unfortunately, I think this is going to be a several-month process, for us to get in, do the repairs, and get out and restore the street like we were never here before," Philadelphia Water Commissioner Debra McCarty said.

Busy 13th Street has been closed to speed up restoration crews but "will open as quickly as possible," the Philadelphia Water Department said in a letter to affected businesses.

The letter details what the city is doing to help, including cleaning up streets and checking the impact to other utilities and sewer, but adds it's "too early to provide a time estimate for this work."

Affected businesses can file a claim against the city, but Philly.com reported that the city's liability is capped at just $500,000.

“Situations like this, this case will take a while,” Debra McCarty told Philly.com. “People should keep track of all their receipts. ... Once that’s all collated by risk management, it gets turned over to a judge and the judge determines how the funds are distributed. My experience is that folks will get, unfortunately, pennies on the dollar.”

Contact Us