Outage disrupts a day of business

by Robert Calandra
Posted 6/26/24

Anne McNally was on her way to work last Thursday when she saw police cars blocking access because of a downed pole. 

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Outage disrupts a day of business


Anne McNally was on her way to work last Thursday when she saw police cars blocking access to Chestnut Hill Avenue because of a downed power pole. 

But when she got to McNally’s Tavern, the family-owned bar on the 8600 block of Germantown Avenue, at 10:30 a.m., everything was normal. McNally breathed a sigh of relief.

“It’s not going to affect us,” she remembered thinking. 

A half-hour after her sigh of relief, and without notice or alert, the power went out. McNally walked up the street and asked one of the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO) workers what was going on. The only thing he could tell her was the power was shut off underground outside Chestnut Hill Coffee. He had no idea when it would be restored.

“PECO sent us a notice saying it (the power) would be back on at 12:45 p.m.,” she said. “Everybody’s looking like, 12:45 p.m., we can still get the day in.”

When the lights blinked off at Cosimo’s Pizza Café, owner Enzo Mandarano’s refrigerators and walk-in unit were stocked full. In spring, fall and winter, Friday and Saturday are usually his busiest days. But with so many people flocking to the shore on summer weekends, Thursday becomes his big day.

“We had one small generator, so I was able to put a little refrigeration on some of the food,” he said. “Unfortunately, we could not hook up the big walk-in box.”

Back at McNally’s, Anne McNally watched PECO’s 12:45 p.m. power-back estimate come and go. Forty-five minutes later, she received a text from PECO saying that power would not be restored until 8 p.m. Fifteen minutes later, she told her night shift employees not to report to work.

Meanwhile, Mandarano could still make pizzas. So, with a few fans attempting to cool them, he kept his crew making pies and selling slices.  

“We accommodated a few people but nothing even close to what we can do on a Thursday during the summer,” he said. 

Losing a day’s sales was one thing. But Mandarano and McNally were also concerned about the provisions in their now warming coolers spoiling. Not helping matters was the fourth day of a sweltering heat wave with temperatures in the mid-90s that felt more like a toasty 100 degrees. 

“It was blazing hot,” Mandarano remembered.

Most restaurant insurance policies don’t cover restaurant losses that occur in less than 24 hours, McNally said. On Memorial Day weekend in 2016, an underground electrical fire forced PECO to shut off power to the 8600 block of Germantown Avenue for a week. McNally had to rent a generator that cost $10,000.

“We got a generator and the insurance company, after two days, stepped in,” she said. “PECO said the wiring here was really, really old.”

Unsure of how long they would be without power, Mandarano drove to Glenside and bought 200 pounds of dry ice to split with McNally. Mandarano put his half in his walk-in box and was “able to save everything.” McNally did the same.

“We have five refrigerators, a walk-in, and a freezer,” she said. “So, I had to buy enough dry ice, but for  how long?” 

Power finally returned around 8:45 p.m. A PECO representative said the repairs required replacing both “underground cable and aerial wires.” The outage, according to PECO, affected 35 customers.

As for the cause, a preliminary report from the Philadelphia Police said “a vehicle, possibly a box truck, struck the light pole causing it to split and then fled the scene.”

By Friday morning, everything was back to normal. 

“Our regular quiet Friday summertime,” Mandarano said. “Besides that, it’s all great. People were very understanding. That’s one day that we’re not going to get back, unfortunately. But it could have been worse.”