Power outage cost restaurants thousands

It was not a very rosy Valentine’s Day for Burlingame restaurants, who lost tens of thousands of dollars when power was cut in the middle of one of their biggest nights of the year.

Nor is it likely to be a very sweetly remembered one by Caltrain or Burlingame, each of which is blaming the other for the outage — and one of which may have to pay the restaurants back for their losses.

Power was cut off to more than 3,000 homes and businesses last Thursday night after a man was jolted as he touched an electrified fence at the Burlingame Caltrain station. The fence was surrounding a construction area at the station, which is being renovated.

A <a title="PG&E Corporation" href="/Subject-PG%26E_Corporation.html" target="_blank" onClick="var s=s_gi('examinercom'); s.tl(this,'o','Inline Entity Link'); " >Pacific Gas & Electric investigation determined a line supplying power to a city lamppost was touching a pile of rebar at the Caltrain construction site, and the rebar passed the charge to the fence, company spokesman Joe Molica said. The man survived the shock, but PG&E immediately turned off power to the downtown area.

Who is responsible for the problem is still up for debate. Caltrain spokesman Jonah Weinberg said that the city’s streetlamp circuit had shorted, and it was “just fortuitous” that the rebar was nearby.

But Burlingame’s Public Works Director Syed Martuza said the problem wouldn’t have occurred if the construction materials hadn’t been there.

Neither Burlingame nor Caltrain officials said they are investigating the matter any further, since they don’t believe they are to blame for it.

Caught in the middle are restaurants such as Straits, which lost an estimated $10,000 and wants to recuperate some of those losses from whomever is responsible.

“It’s the biggest night of the year for us besides New Years. We had 200 people in the restaurant when the power went out,” said Jason Sanders, general manager of Straits.

Nearby brewery Burlingame Station lost between $5,000 and $8,000 from the outage and Italian restaurant Il Fornaio lost an estimated $15,000, employees at those restaurants said. Both restaurants also plan to file claims to recover their losses, they said.

Managers of all the restaurants said they just hope they don’t get stuck with the bill for the power outage.

“It made us look pretty bad, even though it wasn’t our fault,” Sanders said.

kworth@examiner.com

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