Irene-damaged restaurant reopens

Published 10:42 pm Friday, September 30, 2011

After flooding from Irene caused it to close, a downtown Japanese restaurant is once again open for business.

Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar, on North Main Street, closed its doors on Aug. 27 when Hurricane Irene tore through the city, but it didn’t open up again until last week.

Irene left four inches on water on the floor on the restaurant, which sits on the banks of the Nansemond River.

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Sapporo co-owner Justin Chen said the restaurant took a hard financial hit because it couldn’t open.

“Whenever we can’t open, we’re losing money,” he said. “It’s not that easy to make up.”

To open again, the entire restaurant had to be dried out and the walls and floors had to be repaired.

Although being on the river’s edge offers spectacular views for guests, the close proximity makes Sapporo a target for rising floodwaters.

Francine Klemens, a former Sapporo manager who is still close to the restaurant’s owners, said this isn’t the first time they have dealt with flooding.

“This is the second time we had to close for flooding,” she said. “We had also had flooding during the nor’easter.”

The November 2009 storm caused them to close for about a month, but the flooding was much worse, Klemens said. After the nor’easter, the restaurant had 18 inches of water.

“You still have to do a lot of work, though,” she said.

Klemens said when the owners purchased the restaurant, they realized flooding might be a problem. As a result, they raised the building to avoid damage, but it didn’t make a difference.

“The waters still come up and up and up,” Klemens said.

However, she said, after the nor’easter flooding, they made changes in the flooring to keep waters out.

While flooding still occurred, Klemens said, she thinks Irene would have had a much worse effect without the repairs.