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After the Flood

Side Dishes: Montpelier eateries hit but still standing


Published May 31, 2011 at 5:35 p.m.

The murky water that inundated parts of central Vermont on Thursday night was a disaster for several capital city eateries; while some have quickly reopened, at least one is still down for the count.

Twenty-nine inches of water filled the basement lounge of NECI on Main last week. “The bar was under water, and we’ve had to take everything out,” says Kevin O’Donnell, NECI’s vice president of food and beverage operations. “We’re just lucky to have a work crew of students who jumped in and did whatever they could.”

Carpets and banquettes were ruined, and the eatery lost food stored in freezers and refrigerators. While staff and volunteers sanitize and renovate the lounge, lunch and evening tapas will be served at the upstairs Chef’s Table next week, and la brioche and the main dining room will remain open.

Helping hands were also a boon to Three Penny Taproom, which lost its entire inventory of bottled beer when the basement flooded, according to co-owner Wes Hamilton. During the ensuing power outage, friends and significant others spirited food home for safekeeping. “We only lost $20 worth of cheese,” says Hamilton, but the bar was forced to close on a normally busy Friday. Three Penny opened again on Saturday, but the cleanup continues.

Around the corner at State Street’s Positive Pie 2, the six feet of water that filled the basement ruined the food inventory, as well as the new beer system installed during this spring’s renovation, according to manager Laurie Woogmaster. For now, the eatery is serving pizza made with dough shipped from its unscathed Plainfield location.

Nearby Kismet was devastated. “Our basement was completely destroyed. It’s just a slimy gray pit,” says bartender Nicole Galipeau.

Kismet owner Crystal Maderia says the 10 feet of water, sewage, mud and oil that ruined her basement — as well as all of the equipment and inventory stored there — erupted from the storm drains behind the restaurant. A food delivery had arrived earlier that day for the busy Memorial Day weekend, and staff moved it two feet off the floor when they realized a flood was imminent. They were unprepared for water that lapped at the stairs to the main floor.

The irony, says Maderia, is that the flood damage is invisible from the street, as she tried to explain to a group of tourists who wandered in on Saturday, wondering why Kismet was closed. “It wasn’t a visible flood. From the street, it doesn’t look like anything’s wrong.”

After spending last weekend cleaning out the basement, Maderia sent a note to supporters informing them she will probably need $25,000 to replace her inventory, and $30,000 to restore her basement and its equipment. Her insurance did not cover most of the losses, she says.

Kismet will remain closed at least through the week.