Lunch-hour power outage hits downtown businesses

Friday, July 9, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:43 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 14, 2008

During the busy lunch time, most downtown Columbia business owners decided to stay open and serve customers through a 1 1/2-hour power outage Friday.

The outage affected 70 percent to 75 percent of downtown, said George Hessenbruch, operations coordinator for Columbia Municipal Power Plant.

The outage affected an area along College Avenue; an area bounded by Broadway, Cherry Street, Fifth Street and Hitt Street; and another area north of Broadway from Short Street to Fifth. It ended at 1:07 p.m.

A bad underground cable on Hitt Street caused the six-block power outage. "It's just one of those normal day to day occurrences," Hessenbruch said. "It just affected a high-profile area."

The plant will feed power through other cables while they work on the bad one, Hessenbruch said.

The cable will be replaced or repaired. Crews on Friday were trying to pinpoint the location of the problem. Hessenbruch anticipated no further outages this weekend.

Fusion Brew, a bubble tea and espresso café on Broadway downtown, welcomed its few customers while waiting out the power outage in the dark. Without power, there were only a few drinks owner Vihn Tran without the use of blenders.

"We just can't make a lot of drinks we usually make," Tran said. "It certainly does impact what we sell."

Since its opening in April 2003, Tran had never dealt with a power outage, so he was unsure how long the ice cream would last in the coolers. Tran waited out the outage but worried the heat would force him to close.

"At some point, it would be too hot to do business," he said.

Also along Broadway, Teller's Gallery and Bar stayed open, serving cold sandwiches and salads. "We have cold food available, and we prepare in the morning for all the food we do at lunch," co-owner Robin Ayers said.

Ayers said customers were still dining during the outage, but there were 30 percent to 50 percent fewer of them.

Ayers said the outage was the longest she's endured in her six years with the business. Her main concern was food loss. A truck full of food came in the morning, so she had a cooler full of perishable food.

Main Squeeze on Ninth Street locked its doors less than an hour into the outage because there were only a few dishes it could serve. Owner Leigh Lockhart said that outages occur at least once a year but normally last only about a half hour.

"For a Friday at lunch to be closed for an hour and 15 minutes is too long," she said.

Lockhart's biggest concern, though, was product loss. "Luckily, we don't have a $1,000 worth of raw steak in the cooler," she said. The Main Squeeze reopened when their power returned.

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