Photo Credit: Chris Valentine

With continued boil water notices and flooding reports, restaurant owners report a 40% decrease in revenue causing fears for business equal to or greater than COVID era.

Jackson restaurant owners are urging the public to come in and dine as business has taken yet another major hit from the the city’s water crisis.

“It’s been astronomical,” said Steven O’Neill Managing Partner of The Manship in Jackson. “When it comes to business, the boil water notices aren’t so bad. We’ve been dealing with them for years. This time is different, with the infrastructure failure. The problem we now face is public perception.”

O’Neill said throughout his years in the Jackson restaurant business, he has never seen traffic from patrons be impacted as much as it has been over these last six weeks, from a situation like this. He said usually when there is a problem in Jackson, be it crime, water or something else, there is still a steady stream of diners who will choose these restaurants to visit.

“Now, we have diners from other areas that simply will not come back to Jackson because they don’t feel safe” said O’Neill.

John Miller of Johnny T’s Bistro and Blues said they also saw a drop in patrons more so when the water infrastructure came into question which caused customers to choose elsewhere.

“You have to fix the problem and then instill confidence in the consumer,” said John.

While water concerns are still prominent among the city of Jackson as a whole, restaurants have been going above and beyond to ensure that patrons do not need to be concerned about their health when coming in for a meal.

“Every restaurant that I know is doing everything they can to make sure everyone has the best and safest experience possible,” said O’Neill.

At Johnny T’s, he said, they try to make it visible when they are opening bags of ice or grabbing canned sodas for customers, just so they know that they are keeping to the recommended guidelines while the boil water notice stays in place.

Measures include buying outside ice and water to prepare meals and wash hands, as well as canned and bottled drinks for diners to purchase with their meals.

O’Neill said due to inflationary influences, the costs of those things are significantly higher than what is normal for those goods. He used the phrase “1,000 percent higher.”

“It probably costs us an extra $300 a day to provide the ice and beverages, and more on the weekends,” said John.

He said additional payroll has to be made now, because they have to open earlier to boil water.

O’Neill added that paying a staff during these difficult times, to ensure they can stay on when things get back to the busier times, proves to be an even bigger challenge with the massive loss in revenue.

Restaurants in Jackson can employ upwards of 60 individuals. If those establishments were to close, that would only cease the income of hundreds of people, increasing the impacts of poverty an even more Jacksonians.

“Everyone has really joined together over here and become a team player,” said John. “We not only use the water we purchase for service, but our employees are welcome to it if they need it, or know someone elderly that might need it.

John encouraged the public that as you come and dine, to be patient and kind to the workers who are there because everyone is exhausted.

“Give us patience, be kind with those that are working, eat local, support local, that’s really important right now, to make the effort to support local restaurants,” said John.

In an effort to encourage the public to keep these businesses thriving in the face of water difficulties, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann will be visiting several Fondren area businesses on Friday night.

“This is happening TODAY (Friday, 9/9)! We can’t visit all our restaurants in Jackson at once, so we’re starting with these 5. Let’s all pitch in to help get our restaurant industry through this crisis,” said Hosemann on social media. “If you can’t join us today, consider visiting a Jackson restaurant this weekend.”

“I think what the Lt. Governor is doing is fantastic,” said John. “This is a joint effort from everybody. We need to get through this and come back better than before.”

“I am imploring people to come and dine in Jackson. We can’t do this for months, we can barely do this for a few weeks and we are now on week six,” said O’Neill. 

As restaurant owners beg patrons to visit, they are seeking other means of economic assistance. O’Neill said they were advised to take out Emergency Injury Disaster Loans. Visit Jackson has also offered a grant program for applicants to receive up to $1,000 in assistance. O’Neill said, while it is appreciated, that amount won’t cover more than one third of one weeks expenses for many of these restaurants.

O’Neill said he fears what will happen of these restaurants don’t make it out of this season.

“If these restaurants disappear you’ll see a rise in poverty with people losing their jobs and the Tri-County area will ultimately suffer greatly if Jackson ceases to be what it is,” said O’Neill.