With a name like Phoenix, expect nothing less than a full return to business as usual from the bar and grill at the corner of Main and Maryland Streets.
Knowing that Hurricane Agnes in 1972 and Tropical Storm Eloise in 1975 had damaged the structure, Mark Hemmis was under the impression that the Army Corps of Engineers had remediated the drainage situation, he says.
He bought the business and the name, though not the building, from George Goeller 15 years ago and has since been through two floods and a train wreck.
The flood of 2011 took out his basement’s dry goods and liquor, plus electrical and plumbing lines. But 2012’s train derailment, on the other hand, did the Phoenix no damage; its dining room, in fact, became the command center for those working on the disaster.
This time around, though, his basement and first floor were inundated. The 2011 experience had brought submersible pumps for the basement, but these were soon overwhelmed.
“The scope was unprecedented,” says the restaurateur. “There was no way to prepare for it.”
When raging water ripped down the train station clock across Maryland Avenue, the 28 guests and eight employees evacuated to the second and then third floors.
“People thought they were going to die,” Hemmis says. “I learned that we need a better emergency procedure to get people out quicker.”
He vows to rebuild better and stronger, while counting on the county to figure out how to deal with stormwater.