Power outage hits businesses


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Last week, some opened tabs never closed.

As the South Side of Iowa City experienced a power outage on Feb. 19, bars and restaurants were forced to either close or let tabs go unpaid. The power went out from 11:17 p.m. on Feb. 19 and was restored at 12:19 a.m. on Feb. 20.

A power outage shuts down an establishment’s computer system. When this happens, business stops, and if the outage lasts long enough, the tabs started by credit or debit cards are let go.

The power outage affected a total of 2,505 MidAmerican Energy customers in Iowa City, which included both residents and businesses. The cause of the outage was a result of flooding associated with the warm temperatures last week.

“The outage was due to flooding caused by a combination of rain and snow melting,” said MidAmerican Energy media-relations manager Tina Potthoff. “Water got into an electrical cabinet, which resulted in the power outage.”

Apart from residences, there were a number of bars and restaurants affected by the outage. The incident took a toll on those businesses because it occurred during peak nightlife hours.

“We had to close up early, missing out on the two best hours of the night,” said John Lock, the general manager at the Old Capitol Brew Works, 525 S. Gilbert St. “The main issue we had was being forced to let tabs go that were paid on card.”

But the staff could not keep people in the restaurant until the power came back on.

“Staff had to close the bar and get all the customers out in the dark,” Lock said.

There were a few other bars and restaurants hit by the power outage in the area, including the Vine Tavern and Eatery, 330 E. Prentiss St., and the Sanctuary Pub, 405 S. Gilbert St..

Max Hillery, the general manager at  the Vine, said he did not want to wait indefinitely for the power to be restored.

“At that point, we switched to cash only, but when we found out the outage had to do with broken water mains, we figured it would take longer to fix and decided to close early,” Hillery said.

But the Vine caught a break. The bar was running a drink special, and the money lost on tabs — less than $200 — was not detrimental.

“It was dollar-you-call-it night, so drinks weren’t very expensive,” Hillery said. “If the outage hit on a different night, we would have lost a lot more.”

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