Some Ellicott City businesses slowly recovering from second flood; more of Main Street to reopen Tuesday

Chris Gunther, Jennifer Dotzenrod and their three daughters celebrated Father’s Day with lunch at Manor Hill Tavern in Ellicott City on Sunday.

The Columbia family ordered salads and brick-oven pizza from a limited menu the pub has offered since the deadly Memorial Day weekend flood — the second one to ravage the low-lying Howard County historic district in as many years.

“We heard the restaurant was open and just wanted to start supporting the area,” said Gunther, 48.

Three weeks after the flood, ​​Howard County officials reopened Lot D (behind La Palapa Grill & Cantina), one of the district’s central parking lots, on Sunday — a milestone not only for continued cleanup efforts, but to allow customers to reach reopened businesses.

The sections of Main Street west of Old Columbia Pike and east of Maryland Avenue will reopen to traffic Tuesday, restoring access across the Patapsco River Bridge to St. Paul Street and College Avenue, officials said. New Cut Road will remain closed.

A police crew ate lunch in the reopened parking lot Sunday afternoon, as business owners continued to work toward some sense of normalcy — whatever that might look like now.

Kate Ansari’s biggest problems from the flood were that it interrupted one wedding and canceled 10 others.

Ansari owns the Main Street Ballroom, an underground, industrial-style event space from which a couple and their 175 wedding guests had to evacuate amid the rising floodwaters.

Employees returned to find the white chairs and tables still perfectly placed — albeit with a muddy water line on the tablecloths. Pounds of chicken, salmon, bacon-wrapped scallops and asparagus had to be thrown away.

“It was actually pretty eerie,” Ansari said.

Some brides-to-be were willing to postpone their weddings to accommodate the recovery; some even came to help with the cleanup, she said. In the meantime, Ansari is offering the space for free for any fundraisers benefiting Ellicott City residents or businesses.

The business has weddings booked through the end of the year, and will host them as planned, she said.

“Within a week, we had everything cleaned out and ready to go,” Ansari said.

Julie Niblock and Joe Merchak are moving to Denver in a few weeks, but the Federal Hill couple are getting married at the ballroom in December. On Sunday, they came for a tour after the flood.

Niblock and Merchak grew up nearby, they said, and are determined not to move the wedding elsewhere. They want to have their rehearsal dinner somewhere in the historic district, too — although they acknowledge their options might be a bit more limited, as some businesses elect not to reopen.

“We’re really excited to get married in Ellicott City,” said Niblock, 27.

Hatsumi Watanabe-Smith, owner of Matcha Time Cafe, which specializes in Japanese green tea, candy and ice cream, used a marble notebook to take inventory of her merchandise.

She was able to take boxes of chocolate from the shop to the basement of her home to save it from melting when the power went out and the air conditioning stopped working. No such luck for the 1.5-gallon containers of imported Japanese ice cream — they had to be tossed, Watanabe-Smith said.

Matcha Time is open, but few customers have trickled in, so the shop is seeking them out.

It will sell shaved ice, marble soda and tea at a stand at the Ellicott City Old Town Market on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., she said. The tea shop also will sell tea, buns, rice balls, potato salad and vegetarian sushi at a pop-up at Rooster + Hen in Catonsville on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We’re just focusing on what we can do for now,” Watanabe-Smith said.

Manor Hill was able to stay open and serve free meals and clean water to emergency crews and displaced residents and business owners, said general manager Nicholas Thompson.

The pub is returning to its normal operations this week, he said. It had recently been closing early, at 8 p.m., but a crowd of people who showed up to buy $20 #ECStrong charity tulip glasses and drink the brewery’s beer kept Manor Hill open a little later on a recent night, Thompson said.

“You can do last call if you want,” the manager recalled telling the bartender.

But he added that he wouldn’t begrudge his keeping the bar open: “You haven’t made money in two weeks.”

“The bar filled up,” Thompson said. “The phone was off the hook. Everybody wants to come and support.”

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