BIG TIMBER — Businesses and restaurants around Big Timber have been forced to limit their operations or close their doors altogether due to an Oct. 17 water break, which leaves establishments like the Grand Hotel in a tough spot.
“The Grand Hotel is the oldest operating hotel in the state of Montana and because of the history in this hotel and the size of this town, this has always been the cornerstone for Big Timber,” said general manager Barbara Davis on Thursday.
The Grand Hotel is usually serving lunch and dinner to the many locals who drive the business’s success, particularly as winter approaches.
Currently seats sit empty.
“It is hurtful. The whole town is hurting right now. It’s hard on everybody,” added Davis.
The restaurant has been empty since Tuesday, when a fiber optics construction crew inadvertently cut a water main. The water is back on, but officials warn the water could remain compromised.
“The severity of it got worse and the city put it on boil until Oct. 24 and at that point we discussed it we talked about it and for the health and safety of our customers it was just no option but to close… It’s a great risk to open and if you don’t do something just right, someone can get sick and we’re not about that we want to make sure we keep our standards very high… But we will lose a lot of revenue this week,” Davis said.
Just blocks away at The Fort, the impact of no water is being felt in more ways than one.
“The biggest effect that we had initially the first day was restrooms. We’re a convenience store, so people are wanting to stop in and that’s what they want is a cup of coffee and a restroom, and we had neither to offer them,” said The Fort manager, Justin Cowell, on Thursday.
In addition, bottled water is flying off store shelves, an item as good as gold to Big Timber residents.
“I haven’t pulled the numbers on actual increased sales but it would probably be 10 times pretty easily, of what we would normally sell in water,” Cowell added.
Others, like Iron Star Pizza are also feeling the impact.
“It takes a lot of water to support a community. You don’t realize it until it’s gone,” said Justin Arlian, owner of Iron Star Pizza Company on Thursday.
He says a week-long closure has “tremendous repercussions”.
“If it was a day, it is what it is. A seven-day deal in our business is seven days of lost income to pay our employees. Our employees are counting on paychecks,” added Arlian.
Back at the Grand, the hotel’s 39 employees are still at work, giving the hotel and restaurant a deep clean among other chores, responding to adversity the only way it knows how.
“The Grand is tough, Big Timber people in general are tough, and we’ll survive this. It’s a little bump in the road, we’ll all recover, and the community will rally together, they already are,” Davis said.