Houston Restaurants in the Boil Water Area Have Special Requirements To Meet — Updated

Update, 2/29/20, 11:02 a.m.: Good news! The boil water notice has been lifted and is no longer in effect.

Update, 2/29/20, 8:46 a.m.: As of now, the boil water advisory is still in effect and according to an email from Harris County Public Health, that requirement was extended yesterday to “all food establishments within Harris County.” A map at the Ready Harris website shows the extended area where boil water notices may be in effect. The Houston Health Department has issued recommended steps on what food service business owners should do once the requirements are lifted. This includes flushing ice machines and water lines.

Thanks to a massive water main breach on Thursday, most Houston restaurant and bar operators are going to have a tough day today — and a tough choice to make. Open, and do the extra work needed to comply with the City of Houston Health Department requirements, or close and lose a day of revenue.

We’ve received questions about restaurant safety from several readers since yesterday as well, so here’s what they should be looking for, too. Provided that food establishments comply with the following guidelines, it should be safe to dine out today. Update, 2/28/20, 11:38 a.m.: The Houston Health Department has published a list of frequently asked questions for food service establishments.

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.” (Click the link to view and print.) Employees have to be trained on the current procedures, which includes not only the usual frequent hand-washing but following up with sanitizer and allowing hands to air dry.

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 such as iced tea that were made with water from yesterday. That means that bagged ice is going to be in huge demand today, as is bottled water. Water used for drinking, washing produce or cooking has to be bottled or boiled.

Update, 2/28/20, 12:41 p.m.: Tia Hoffman of Momentum Coffee in Spring has some additional advice. “Water filtration systems need to be checked and filters replaced,” she wrote. “Sediment will clog filters and damage your equipment. Don’t forget about your ice machine, coffee brewer and espresso machines!”

As far as dishes go, disposable is 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 full list of requirements for food service businesses 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.

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