The calm after the storm

Calgary Restaurants rebuilding and reopening for business

It’s hard to believe that the natural disaster that shook our city to its core happened two and a half months ago.

Now it seems as though our restaurant scene is more or less back to business as usual. Smaller establishments like Taste and Market saw business setbacks due to power outages and loss of perishables. Typically restaurants that did not sustain much (or any) water damage were closed for an average of 10 days. For a small business a loss of 10 days of revenue can be crippling but imagine having your business’ doors closed for over five weeks? Now that’s scary.

While Wurst and Famoso (among others) in Mission are still closed Phoebe Fung saw her Fourth Street S.W. dining destination Vin Room reopen prior to the August long weekend. “We reopened on July 29 — 39 days after the flood. Many of our staff were redeployed to our west location and some utilized the downtime to take personal time off” says Fung. “Two of our staff members were personally affected by the flood and took some time to deal with their flood recovery. Due to our relatively short downtime and re-employment we only [actually] lost one staff member as a result of the flood.”

During the peak of the flooding Fung watched from her restaurant’s rooftop patio as water engulfed the area surrounding Vin Room. Once everything subsided the entire basement including two wine cellars a staff room all electrical and plumbing were entirely written off with damages estimated in the high six figures.

River Café located in the heart of the flood suffered severe damage and only just reopened on August 12. “Our entire basement was under six feet of water. We lost over half of the wine stored in the wine cellar including many old vintages and verticals of Bordeaux and Burgundy” says Kristi Peters Snider of River Café. “We also lost all of our house-cured charcuterie dozens of jars of jams and preserves and all of our food. We are still assembling receipts and inventory lists to determine what the value of lost goods is.”

Snider says all staff were kept on payroll during the closure but summer is a crucial time for students to make money and they still lost several employees as well as SAIT interns who had come on board in June. “Many of those students moved on to other restaurants to fulfill their work experience. This had a big impact on our kitchen when we reopened and we are still short-staffed because of it.”As devastating as the flood was it gave both restaurants an opportunity to make several updates to their establishments. River Café has redesigned its storage space wine cellar and receiving area while Vin Room updated its private dining room and cellar and reinforced portions of the exterior should the waters rise again. Of course not all customers are back in their homes.

“For now we’re slowly getting our business back to normal levels but as you know many residents in Mission have not been able to return to their homes and there are many businesses that are still not yet open” says Fung. “We look forward to our neighbours being able to return home and the community being as vibrant as it used to be.”

While there’s no doubt it will still be some time before Vin Room and River Café fully recover one thing we know for sure is that residents are ready and willing to dine with them. “We were overwhelmed with an outpouring of support from the community” says Snider. “It was remarkable how many guests friends staff alumni and producers reached out to us via Twitter Facebook email and voicemails with expressions of support and stories of how River Café has played a special part in their lives.”