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Central Coast Mudslides Prompt Mandatory Restaurant Closures Near Santa Barbara

The Montecito Water District issued a warning yesterday about its tainted water supply

Mudslides Kill At Least 17 People In Santa Barbara County Where Wildfire Scorched Hillside Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

Just as businesses were beginning to recover from the 2017 Thomas Fire, Montecito and Summerland restaurants were ordered to close Wednesday due to safety concerns with the water supply. The Los Angeles Times first reported about the water contamination after the fire-scorched, eroded Central Coast soil was pummeled with rain and mudslides this week.

The sheer force of the mudslides caused water pipes to erupt and physically remove fire hydrants in its path, leading Santa Barbara County Public Health Department officials to issue specific warnings for restaurants to stop serving until further notice. A general boil-water notice was issued Tuesday, encouraging residents to boil water for at least 60 seconds prior to washing dishes, brushing teeth, preparing food, or washing hands, according to the health department’s deputy director, Susan Klein-Rothschild. Not doing so could result in stomach or intestinal illness.

According to the health department, restaurants are not allowed to handle foods in any manner, and only sell unopened, prepackaged food until the boil-water notice is rescinded. Because the mudslides damaged the local water supply infrastructure, officials are unable to determine when that will be. Officials are also asking people to stay out of the ocean water for the same safety concerns. The same warnings have not been issued for neighboring cities like Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, and only affect neighborhoods in the Montecito Water District.

That does mean, however, that the mudslides and closure notices are affecting the husband and wife team, Phillip Frankland Lee and Margarita Kallas-Lee. In 2017, the pair took over four restaurant spaces inside the inside the Montecito Inn. The Montecito Inn evacuated the hotel this week, and posted the following notice:

Los Angeles Times

202 W 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (213) 237-5000 Visit Website