With a huge crowd gathered outside their door for the annual Wooden Boat Show Saturday, Front Street business owners were looking forward to a very successful day.
But, those hopes were dashed for several downtown merchants and restaurant owners when a power cutback, then outage, hit a two-block area on the river side of Front Street at the peak of the event.
Michele Giarratano, owner of Front Street Deli, said the problem began at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday when the lights started to flicker.
“We had about half power,” she said, adding about an hour later the power in her business went completely off.
“There was no way we could do business. We could not cook. Our main objective at that time was to keep the cooler cold so we would not lose our food,” Giarratano said.
Because Front Street Deli closes at 5 p.m., Giarratano estimates her restaurant lost as much as $800 in sales because of the outage.
The news was worse for the owners of Limpin Janes which was unable to serve diners during the afternoon and evening.
Tara Tracy said Limpin Janes not only lost food customers but also those who wanted to watch Saturday’s South Carolina Gamecocks game at the bar.
She said they did the best they could while they had half-power by serving only customers who could pay with cash since the credit card machine could not be used.
When the power went completely out at about 5 p.m., the restaurant had to close, Tracy said.
Owner Bryan Shepler said Limpin Janes lost about $4,000 in sales because of the blackout.
“This was supposed to be the biggest day of the year for us,” Tracy said.
Shepler, Tracy and Giarratano all said no one from the city talked to them about the problem on Saturday.
Shepler, a member of the Georgetown Business Association, said a letter from the impacted merchants is being drafted that will be presented to city officials.
Giarratano said she feels a fair compensation will be for the merchants to receive electricity free for one month.
Alan Loveless, head of the city’s electric utilities, said there was a failure in two transformers that caused the outage.
He said correcting the problems took much longer because of the size of the crowd on Front Street.
“We could have had it repaired in half the time but with the crowd it was very hard to get our trucks and equipment in,” Loveless said.
Shepler said he feels with the number of police officers on the scene, the truck could have been guided in quickly.
He said he feels there needs to be a push to privatize electric service in the city.
“Santee Cooper would have been here very fast and would have had the problem fixed,” Shepler said.
By Scott Harper
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