NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Newport business owners crowded the Newport Marriott Tuesday morning as the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation helped them figure out their next steps following the week-long natural gas outage.
According to National Grid, a dramatic drop in pressure from its transmission system, Algonquin Gas Transmission Co., forced them to suspend service to thousands of customers in Newport and parts of Middletown. The gas outage affected more than 10,000 people at its peak and left residents without natural gas for a week.
Charlie Holder, who operates the Midtown Oyster Bar & Grill and the Surf Club, was one of those customers. He said he’s still trying to figure out what’s next now that natural gas has been restored.
Holder said Midtown was only closed one day, but Surf Club, which is part of the Newport Bay Club, has yet to reopen.
According to Holder, between both businesses 60 of his employees were out of work, and he’s still trying to calculate how much revenue he lost.
He said he’s hoping the information session will give him a better idea of that figure and how much of it he can make back.
“I just want to see what our options are after this past week and try to see if we can recoup some of the things that we lost due to the outage, that would be great,” Holder said. “But I kind of really want to see, you know, what the offer is and what the next step is and the plans are. It’s a slow time of year so every little bit is magnified that you lose.”
The information session follows Gov. Gina Raimondo’s announcement Monday that the state is offering $1.45 million in emergency loans for businesses that lost natural gas service due to the outage.
Raimondo said businesses can apply for up to $25,000. National Grid also announced that it would be providing $500,000 in grants for small businesses, for up to $5,000 per business.
“Any small business owner knows that a few days of lost revenue can make a big difference to your bottom line,” Raimondo said. “No one should have to worry about keeping the lights on or making payroll because of gas outages beyond their control. This fund will help provide relief for local businesses as National Grid continues working to bring back heat as quickly as possible.”
However, some buisness owners don’t believe the emergency loans will be enough to get back on track. On Monday, two class action lawsuits were filed against National Grid and Enbridge, the gas supplied for Algonquin, on behalf of eight residents and three businesses who were affected by the outage.