BAR HARBOR — For local businesses, especially restaurants operating during a short and busy summer season, every meal sold counts. But power disruption on July 26 and July 28 left businesses on and around Cottage Street no choice but to close for the evening.
Bar Harbor restaurant owners, some without power and others with partial power, were disappointed to refuse dinner service during each incident, both of which lasted roughly two hours.
The Thirsty Whale restaurant was forced to close one day around 5:15 p.m., and again two days later around 6 p.m. Owner Heather Sorokin said she had to send workers home during the height of the season
“When an outage in our kitchen happens, we have to shut off all the equipment because the hood isn’t working, so even if power comes back on in an hour and a half, the kitchen equipment has to come back up to temperature,” she said. Though it’s a financial hit, Sorokin said she will be OK, but she worries for other neighboring restaurants that also need to absorb the losses.
At Route 66, staff served salads and cold sandwiches until closing, despite the restaurant’s complete power outages. During a blackout without a kitchen, manager Heather Winkler said staff did their best to serve as many guests as possible. “No power stunk for business and there definitely needs to be something done about it,” said Winkler, who directed hungry people to other restaurants that had power.
Businesses with generators were able to stay open and gain traction. For Graffiti Donuts & Coffee, The Loft Raw Bar and Seafood Lounge and Testa’s Bar & Grill, along with a few others, it was business as usual.
Despite several ravenous customers in a restaurant that was functioning on generated power and a propane stove, Christopher Kemna, manager of Tom Testa’s Bayside Landing restaurants, said staff were able to scramble to stay open. Kemna said that having electricity attracted a massive influx of customers, which was not necessarily a good thing.
The outages spanned from the corner of Mount Desert Street and Main Street to as far as Cottage Street and Kebo Street.
Judy Long, Versant Power’s manager of communication, said the company is aware of the issue and is working to resolve it. “Sometimes things happen, and while we’re certainly sensitive to the business owners in Bar Harbor, all equipment is designed to prevent damage from a load imbalance by ceasing service to protect the entire system,” she said.
According to Long, a marked increase in the amount of power being used in the downtown area affected the service’s load balancing. With summer’s high utility use and increasingly more expensive natural gas prices, she said there is more demand for electricity.
“Our teams started performing a load study on the circuit, and in the meantime, our line crews have taken steps to mitigate the issue in the short term by putting in some additional equipment,” she said.
As the teams continue their studies, Long said the company will then decide if a long-term solution is needed. However, in 2016, a state-of-the-art electrical substation at Eden Street was built to manage these types of issues.
Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Alf Anderson said reliable electricity is more important than ever with businesses and individuals transitioning to new, electric-powered technologies. He said hospitality businesses in Bar Harbor, and their employees, have success when they can make enough revenue during the summer tourism season to last for the entire year.
“Even a small interruption can have a major impact on a business and its staff members,” Anderson said.