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Junction restaurant shuttered for nearly 2 weeks thanks to city water pipe back-up

Staff at The Alpine on Dundas Street West placed a 311 call on Jan. 19, but the owner says city crews did not start work on the site until eight days later. After looking into the issue, crews told him the problem stemmed from a pipe located in front of the restaurant. (Tyler Cheese/CBC - image credit)
Staff at The Alpine on Dundas Street West placed a 311 call on Jan. 19, but the owner says city crews did not start work on the site until eight days later. After looking into the issue, crews told him the problem stemmed from a pipe located in front of the restaurant. (Tyler Cheese/CBC - image credit)

A restaurant in Toronto's Junction neighbourhood has been forced to close its doors for nearly two weeks after an issue with the city water pipes caused its plumbing to back up and flood.

The Alpine was forced to cancel reservations and turn to take-out only after staff noticed drains and toilets backing up and were forced to take the water out in buckets.

"Financially, it's been devastating, it's been brutal. Where we make our money is on the weekends [and] we've had two weekends of fully booked floors. I'm running around, trying to cancel reservations and rebook large parties," owner Jeffery Kennie told CBC Toronto on Monday.

Kennie said he was on a three-day trip in Paris when he got the call that his restaurant had been flooded on his first day there.

"It was devastating because I went on vacation when this happened and it was my first vacation in five years," he said.

"You feel guilty. You're like, 'I'm putting this on my staff. Like they have to clean up this mess.' They were here till [5 a.m.] on the first day."

A note posted up on the window of The Alpine restaurant in Toronto's Junction neighbourhood that reads 'Closed due to plumbing issue. Sorry.'
A note posted up on the window of The Alpine restaurant in Toronto's Junction neighbourhood that reads 'Closed due to plumbing issue. Sorry.'

Restaurant owner Jeffery Kennie said the ongoing plumbing issue has left its 16-person team unable to work as they wait for Toronto Water to fix the pipe on the job site. (Dean Gariepy/CBC)

City says work to be completed Tuesday

Restaurant staff called the city's municipal services line, 311, on Jan. 19, but Kennie says work didn't start on the site until eight days later.

In a statement to CBC News, the city said it was notified of a blocked drain at the site when it received the call on Jan. 19.

"City staff investigated and have determined the issue is a blocked sewer service connection," it said. "No other properties are affected."

The city says work to repair the sewer service connection is still underway and is expected to be completed Tuesday.

"Staff first attended the site in the morning of Jan 20. At that time, restaurant staff were not onsite, so city staff were unable to get inside the property to conduct their investigation," the city added.

"Due to the complex nature of site conditions and the depth of the sewer, additional investigations were required in the days that followed."

'My staff need answers'

While the restaurant has been open for takeout orders over the last couple of days, the owner says that only goes so far with a 16-person crew.

"I don't have the money to pay anyone, so I'm coming in here working the hours with my business partner just to help get some cash flow going again because I have payroll this week. I don't know if I'm going to make it, and I certainly can't pay myself this month," he said.

The City of Toronto said city staff determined an issue with a blocked sewer service connection. Crews are expected to fix it on Tuesday, the city said. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Kennie said Toronto Water was on site Saturday but they were unable to locate the pipe and left the job site, before returning on Monday.

"My staff needs answers. People are scrambling to make money. It's going to be almost two weeks."

Closure a 'death sentence,' says another owner

Next door, Jason Fisher, owner of small craft brewery Indie Ale House, says the work has affected his business somewhat.

"We've had a couple stops and starts. It doesn't help for deliveries and traffic, and people walking by, but it's nothing compared to what they're going through," Fisher told CBC Toronto, referring to The Alpine.

Restaurants and small businesses are still working to recover from COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns, said Fisher, adding the city's water pipe issue doesn't make things any easier.

"The neighbourhood is still pretty slow since COVID, it's not back to normal for any of us, it's just one thing after another," Fisher said.

"I don't know many small businesses that can handle being fully closed for 11 or 12 days, particularly restaurants. If you have a really good insurance plan, maybe you'll get some money [back.] But that's a death sentence."