Lightning strike shutters popular eatery

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A popular Person County restaurant was forced to close its doors during the busy Independence Day holiday after lightning struck the building and damaged electrical and telephone lines.

Country Club Steakhouse, on Community Store Road, was closed for the July 4th holiday when the lightning struck the building, although one employee was inside the building when the lightning struck around 3 p.m.

“It’s scared the fool out of him,” said restaurant owner Chris Long.

The lightning apparently blew the electrical connection of the side of the building, igniting a small fire. But Long said the fire was out by the time emergency personnel arrived. “I guess it was raining so hard at the time that it must have put the fire out before it got too far,” Long said.

Though the building itself didn’t suffer any significant damage, the business’s point of sale machinery and computers were destroyed, making it impossible to accept credit and debit cards for meals. Duke Energy workers were at the scene Friday morning to repair the damage to the electrical service, but Long and his workers realized they didn’t have enough power to operate the restaurant’s air conditioning units. Power company officials returned to the site and restored full power to the building, but then Long discovered that the phone lines which allow for electronic transactions weren’t working.

“The only way I could operate would have been as a cash only business. We decided it would be too much to try to open on a busy holiday weekend as a cash only business,” Long said.

The company is insured for its losses, Long said, but he is concerned about the hourly and part-time staff who were depending on the income they were hoping for during the holiday rush. “The worst part about it is, I’ve got kids in high school and waitresses (for) whom this is a second job. And that’s money they couldn’t get. It’s not that much money, but when you have a kid working to put gas in his truck, that means a lot,” Long said. He estimated that about 40 part time staff were affected by the closing, which he hopes will end with the dinner hour tonight.

The power outage also meant the restaurant suffered losses to its food supply. “I’m going to have a bunch of food loss. We’re having to throw away a bunch of product. It might have been OK, but I didn’t want to take that chance. I figured it was better to just throw it out and replace it,” Long said.

The unexpected closing also caused problems for Long’s customers, some of whom he said drove from as far away as South Boston and Danville, only to find out the restaurant was closed. “I didn’t have a good way to get the word out, so people were showing up to eat. But there’s not much you can do when Mother Nature does something like this,” Long said.

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