Power failures hit Fells Point

Along Broadway, trails of lost income, soupy gelato, disappointed customers


Mike Beckner's business inventory was melting yesterday. Inside his Broadway Market shop, the orange sherbet was pooling at the bottom of its cardboard container and the vanilla gelato was turning into an oozing mound of sweet, sticky goo.

"You see that?" Beckner asked, pointing at the warm tub of Italian ice cream. "You can't serve that. No one wants a scoop of that."

Beckner and many of his Fells Point neighbors, business owners and homeowners spent most of yesterday without electricity, a situation that made many of them hot and irritable, if not also painfully aware of the customers, and cash, they were losing.

It wasn't the first time this month that parts of Fells Point had been in the dark. In the past 11 days, there have been six power outages, according to Beckner and other area business owners, who say they have lost many thousands of dollars in sales because of the blackouts.

"When a customer pulls on the handle of my door and it's locked, I don't know if I'll ever get that customer back," said George Eiakoloukas, owner with his wife of Moby's bar in the 700 block of Broadway, which appeared to be the center of yesterday's power outage. It was difficult to gauge the extent of the outage because there is a patchwork of electrical grids in the Fells Point area.

Linda Foy, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., said yesterday that crews restored electrical service to some bars and restaurants before the busy lunch hour. The rest were able to reopen by 5 p.m. She said that part of the problem was a surge in demand.

"Because it is so hot, there is an increase in the amount of power being used by all of our customers," Foy said. "We certainly understand our customers' frustration, however, and we are trying to figure everything out and restore service as quickly as we can."

Possibly contributing to the power outages are recent rehabilitations of older homes and businesses, which have created a greater electrical demand than hardware in the area can handle.

Foy confirmed that upgrades in home and business electrical systems could be playing a role in the outages but that that BGE crews are still investigating to get a clearer idea of what is causing the power failures in Fells Point.

Longtime Fells Point businessman Ron Furman, who owns Max's Taphouse, said he is disappointed with BGE officials for not coming up with a solution earlier. He said he has lost close to $30,000 in sales in recent weeks - his staff had to close early two Fridays in a row - and is contemplating spending more than $20,000 for a backup generator for his business.

"I'm taking all the rats in Fells Point and putting them on a treadmill in the basement," Furman said during a lighter moment.

As BGE workers toiled under a broiling sun, tourists sturdy enough to endure temperatures in the low 90s were observed tugging at the locked doors of dark restaurants and shops.

The DeRoccos of Philadelphia were among those who wanted to eat at a certain restaurant but could not. Julie DeRocco, 38, said she and her husband, Marty, 39, and sons Jesse, 7, and Christian, 9, had planned to eat at Bertha's Mussels because they had heard about its quirky reputation and mounds of steaming, garlicky mollusks. They were upset when they learned that the tavern was closed.

"We specifically came for that," said DeRocco, whose family lunched at a nearby Irish pub instead. "We were disappointed."

When another visitor, Patrick Dicerbo, 38, of Mullica Hill, N.J., couldn't get find an open restaurant where he could use the food and beverage coupons he had received on a water taxi, he decided to spend the afternoon engaged in a different activity - body piercing.

"Why not," he said. "If I can't get a free beer at least I can get some new piercings."


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