Calistoga’s fire chief has given Hydro Grill permission to reopen after repairs to a faulty ventilation system that kept the popular restaurant shut almost a month.
Fire Chief Steve Campbell approved the new vent system over the stove on Friday. Owner Gayle Dierkhising said it took several days to restock the kitchen and prepare fresh menu items such as sauces, burgers and pulled pork, all of which are made in-house.
“We make so much in that little kitchen” that it takes a surprisingly long time to restock, Dierkhising said. The restaurant had been closed so long that they had to dispose of all the perishable items.
The downtown restaurant was closed on Nov. 26 after a health inspector noticed a roach on the bar while she was typing up a report documenting a number of separate health code violations. None of those violations would have forced the closure of the restaurant, but inspectors usually order an immediate shutdown after seeing an active infestation of roaches or other pests.
Fixing the various violations, including getting rid of the roaches, should have been a quick job, but a subsequent inspection of the kitchen revealed that the ventilation system over the stove needed to be replaced. The county health inspectors cleared the restaurant to reopen weeks ago, but Campbell would not allow it to use the stove until the ventilation was repaired, so Dierkhising and husband Alex Dierkhising decided to remain closed until the work was done rather than reopen with a limited menu.
Dierkhising declined to say how much the repairs cost, but she admitted that it was extremely expensive, since the new ventilation system needed to be custom manufactured and installed.
“The impact was felt doubly, particularly because we had a month being closed with no revenue and at the same time all that money was going out” for the new ventilation system, she said.
The new vent was not covered by insurance and it is unlikely their insurance company will cover the cost of lost perishable products either, she said.
While the expense will cause the operation to “tighten its belt” and may delay some other planned renovations, she said, it will not threaten the future of the business.
“We will merrily roll along,” she said.
One other downside, she said, is that customers will probably not appreciate the amount of work that went on into the last month, since the vent work is in the rafters and out of sight and the dining room looks just the same.
Still, she said, “we are just really, really grateful” to be able to reopen finally.