Riverside businesses experiencing déjà vu as Ohio River rises again
Between the three riverfront restaurants, more than 100 people were out of work when flooding forced the doors to close earlier this year.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As the Ohio River rises again, more rain is like a punch in the gut for some riverfront restaurant owners still drowning in flood repairs.
It's the worst case of déjà vu for Stacey Youngs-McDaniel, the manager of Harrods Creek Tavern. Six weeks ago, flooding washed out the tavern, with water reaching seven feet high in the bar. Now, on the eve of the restaurant's reopening, the Ohio River is again knocking at the backdoor.
"[It's] just a terrified feeling all around, because this is everybody's livelihood," Youngs-McDaniel. "It's a really sick feeling."
At Cunningham's Creekside, decks, patios and docks were all back underwater Thursday afternoon.
"Last week, we thought we were just about ready to open," Owner Brent George said. "The water was in its banks, and we were thoroughly in cleanup mode."
With the race to repair taking a bit longer than expected, George pushed Cunningham's re-launch to next week, hoping the water won't rise any more.
"It's the elephant in the room," he said.
Further downstream, a giant sign off River Road tells all who pass that Captain's Quarters has reopened. As they walk in the door, customers are greeted by a video showing how high the water rose. In one picture, co-owner Paul Matserson's nephew is seen floating in a canoe in what would normally be the dinning room.
"We're all pretty exhausted from all this," Masterson said. "We've got quite a love-hate relationship with the river, and she's definitely testing our relationship this year."
Behind the restaurant, three patios are back under the gushing Ohio River, and the outdoor seating for about 200 people is submerged. Yet the biggest concern is the parking lot out front.
"If we get another foot-and-a-half of water, then the road will be completely cut off," Masterson said. "Once it gets over the road, then we're out of business."
All of the riverside businesses know their "breaking point," the dreaded flood stage where water races into their buildings and owners will be forced to close.. For Masterson, it's 26 feet. For George, it's 27 feet. And for Youngs-McDaniel, it's 30 feet. Thursday's forecast had the river cresting around 24 feet, so the owners remain cautiously optimistic.
Nevertheless, Cunningham's and Harrods Creek Tavern have rebuilt in a different way following the February flooding event. The tavern now has cement floors, concrete bar tops and a wood paneling that's easily removed. Cunningham will also have removable counter tops and all heavy equipment on rollers, an effort to make flooding an easier and faster to fix. Between the three riverfront restaurants, more than 100 people were out of work when flooding forced the doors to close.
"It's the river you pay for, the lifestyle, one way or another," Youngs-McDaniel said. "But we're going to be ready to go the next time."
Harrod's Creek Tavern is opening at 2 p.m. on April 6.
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