Errant Fire Sprinkler Douses 221 Main Twice in 24 Hours

You can decidedly add St. Joseph restaurateur Robert Montgomery to the long and growing list of people who are completely fed up with the bizarre year that 2020 has turned into. If you were planning to hit up his 221 Main for lunch today, you were out of luck, but he was hard-charging toward being ready for the dinner crowd at his restaurant and the new Pleasant Street Plaza in St. Joseph this evening following a freak incident yesterday involving fire suppressing sprinklers at 221 Main. Then, history repeated itself today.

Rather than explain the situation second-hand, here’s Robert’s post from Facebook this morning telling the story as only Robert can:

“2020 has been relentless, but it will not win!

We’ve had coronavirus, quarantine, racial tension around the world, economic shutdowns, businesses in turmoil… but we thought, “Let’s make the best of this.”

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During shutdown, my wife and I PERSONALLY deep-cleaned, patched drywall, painted, moved heavy equipment and furniture, scrapped all the nonsense that had accumulated in the basement, reworked our menus, recalculated costs with suppliers, prepared for reopening amid coronavirus with sanitizing and mask protocols and restocked the restaurant freezers, refrigerators and shelves.

DAY ONE OF REOPEN. Went fantastic. Staff was excellent and business was great. In fact, even with reduced seating, it was better than last year by a lot! The masks are a pain to get used to but everyone managed to get by. The customers all wore masks when they came in with no complaints at all. Things were looking up!

And then… DAY TWO. One of the fire sprinklers failed in the kitchen, shooting massive amounts of water all over the grill, flattop and our kitchen staff. Our fire alarm screaming down the street. Police and fire trucks rush to our building. If you’ve never seen a sprinkler system go off, the amount of water even one head can throw out is incredible. This same head failed last year and flooded half the restaurant. Luckily, we knew how to shut things down so the water spray was FAR less than it was last year, but what a mess!

Our staff REALLY stepped up! Shop-vacs, brooms, mops and buckets appeared and everyone pitched in! We even had staff who had gone home, come back to help clean and mop. We love our staff. But now what? Will everything work? Kitchen equipment that got filled with water? Printers that send orders to the kitchen? Can we still open this weekend?

The short answer… YES! The kitchen equipment all fired right up. We lost one kitchen printer, the other 2 seem to be OK, so we can make this work! We won’t be open for lunch today as we had planned, we’re going to need the time to restock all the food that got soaked.

221 WILL BE OPEN TODAY AT 4pm. 2020 will not win!”

So, there you have it. Chalk up another episode of “you just can’t make this stuff up!”

Even more, remarkable was the encore today when history repeated itself this afternoon. Here’s an update from the original story today from a understandably chagrined Mr. Montgomery:

“Score another one for 2020

After having our kitchen sprinkler system malfunction last night, our crew rallied, cleaned everything, reorganized the kitchen and prepped for tonight’s service. The sprinkler head was replaced and we were fully prepared to open tonight at 4pm.

At 2:30pm today, the sprinkler head THAT JUST GOT REPLACED LAST NIGHT failed and flooded our kitchen… again!

So… we are sad to say that we’ve had to cancel all weekend reservations. The sprinkler company will have everything fixed properly for us to reopen (again!) on Wednesday. We apologize for any inconvenience but at this point I’m just waiting for a comet to fall out of the sky.”