Boil Water Notice Means Many Houston Restaurants Will Not Open Today — Updated
Update, 2/19/21, 9:27 a.m.: According to a press release, Mayor Sylvester Turner says he expects the boil water notice to remain in effect until Monday. However, more and more Houston restaurants are finding ways to comply with the boil water notice requirements set by the city health department and reopening.
Remember almost exactly one year ago when a massive water main breach hammered water pressure in areas of Houston and the city issued a boil water notice? Well, due to days of below-freezing temperatures, low water pressure and broken water pipes, a new one was issued this morning.
🚨 ATTENTION 🚨
A boil water notice is now in effect for Houston until further notice. Check with local provider or MUD to…
Unlike last year, the challenges for Houston restaurant owners are harder than ever. In order to open, they must comply with the City of Houston Health Department requirements, or stay closed and lose yet another day of revenue. All of this follows months of reduced business due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The requirements for restaurants to operate under a boil water notice are stringent. Ice machines, soda machines and other devices connected to the tap water supply cannot be used, including any coffee machines with a water supply line. The ice supply has to be tossed, as do any beverages made with water, such as iced tea. Bagged ice and bottled water are crucial now for restaurant operations — and thanks to days of frozen roads, it’s going to take time for some restaurant suppliers to restock. If not bottled, water used for drinking, washing produce or cooking has to be boiled.
Some readers report that grocery stores are out of these items, too, and some stores that opened yesterday are not open again today. Reader Jennifer Puls said that the H-E-B in the Buffalo Heights District at 3663 Washington Avenue and Kroger at 1440 Studemont are not opening today, there is no running water and the stores are completely out of bottled water. “Just stood in the freezing rain for 40 mins waiting for H-E-B to open and they finally sent someone out to tell the line that it wasn’t happening,” she wrote on Facebook. “No running water, nowhere to buy water, intermittent power, freezing temps… how is this houston in 2021?? This is beyond scary.”
NEW: You should assume you are under a boil water notice unless you’ve heard different from your local authorities….
Until the boil water notice is lifted, restaurants, bars and other food service businesses in the yellow area of the map below must “post signs or notices of the water department advisory.” (Houston Food Finder has requested a link from the Houston Health Department to the required notice and will update this article when received.) Employees have to wash hands frequently and follow up with sanitizer — but we’re all used to that now thanks to the pandemic, so nothing new there.
For restaurant service, disposable dishes are convenient and recommended, but commercial-grade dishwashers are fine to use as long as the water temperature gets between 160 and 180 degrees. Hand-washing using the wash, rinse and sanitize method is also acceptable, as long as the dishes are in the hot water for at least a minute and allowed to completely air dry.
The Houston Health Department has a list of frequently asked questions for owners of food service establishments. The full list of requirements for under the boil water period is available online at the Houston Health Department website. Anyone with questions or concerns can contact the department via email or by calling (832) 393-5100.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.