Durham restaurant loses business after city mistakenly turns off water

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — A Durham restaurant is out thousands of dollars in revenue after the city of Durham mistakenly turned off their water on Monday morning.

Kelli Cotter owns Toast, a restaurant that in downtown Durham, that primarily is open for lunch.

However, Cotter’s business was not able to open when the city turned off the water about 8:30 a.m. Monday.

“The chef called and said that the water was turned off,” Cotter said.

Cotter said that she knew the city of Durham had undercharged her restaurant by at least $90 on the last water bill.

She said the ownership of the building recently changed and there was some confusion about how much of the building’s water Cotter was responsible for paying.

Cotter said she immediately called the city to let them know about the error.

“I wanted to pay what I’m supposed to pay, I wasn’t trying to be sneaky,” Cotter said. “I called them four times, four times.”

CBS 17 reached out to the city of Durham’s Department of Water Management to get answers.

City officials said an employee made an error and did not flag Cotter’s account, so it was marked as delinquent.

As a result, the city mistakenly turned the restaurant’s water off and it took crews four hours to get it turned back on.

“It wasn’t my fault and I was the one trying to do everything right,” Cotter said. “We lost our whole lunch business as a result, which was all of our business.”

City officials said that their water management department is short staffed and they are responsible for 96,000 water customers in Durham.

A city official told CBS 17 that mistakes do happen. However, they added that they are reviewing their policies, practices, and procedures in an effort to prevent a similar case from happening again.

Officials said that their policy is to call water customers with a delinquent account a day before the water will be shut off.

However, officials said with their staffing shortage, they cannot always call everyone.

City officials said this was an isolated incident and no other water customers were impacted.

Cotter has filed a claim with the City’s Risk Management Division to try to get reimbursed for the $1,100 she lost, as a result, the water being cut off, she said.  

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