View Full Version : Bricktown Blackouts

07-18-2007, 07:35 AM
Bricktown blackout generates questionsBy Steve Lackmeyer
Business Writer
Four recent power outages in Bricktown, including an hour of darkness at rush hour Monday, have merchants questioning whether they can rely on Oklahoma Gas and Electric for power or whether they need to invest thousands of dollars in generators.

Brian Alford, spokesman for OG&E, said Tuesday that Monday's outage was caused by a bad cable splice dating back to the 1970s.

But to merchants who have complained about power outages for two years, any explanation these days is insufficient compared to what they really want — a permanent fix.

"It's been two Mondays in a row,” said David Southard, owner of Bricktown's Bourbon Street Cafe. "It's hitting at the dinner rush ... It's hard for me as a business owner to know whether to wait or shut down. The unknown is the hardest thing for us to deal with. We just want to have some stable power.”

Toby Keith's I Love this Bar and Grill lost power for 80 minutes about 7 p.m., just as the restaurant was beginning a wait list because all the tables were full. Proprietor Ross Crain said he had 300 people at the restaurant, including 35 who had just been seated. Another 40 walked in the door just as the lights went out.

"Seventy-five percent of my customer base is from out of town or out of state,” Crain said. "These people are leaving town, and we have to worry about what they're going to think.”

Crain said all of the outages seem to hit at dinner rush. He said he can't recall similar outages during his three-year stint at Pearl's Lakeside at Lake Hefner's East Wharf.

"We need electricity that will stay on,” Crain said. "I'm at a point that I may need to buy a generator, and I'm not looking forward to having to spend that $80,000 to $100,000 just to have reliable service to this building.”

Crain estimates the latest outage cost him about $8,000, while Southard estimated his loss at $4,000. Southard said his restaurant's other locations, including one in a similar old district, Tulsa's Cherry Street, do not have similar experiences.

"In the five years I was manager at Cherry Street, outages were something we never concerned ourselves with,” Southard said. "Here, it's becoming routine.”

Alford said OG&E is sensitive to Bricktown merchants' plight, and has spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars” over the past year trying to remedy the area's power supply problems. He said the utility is preparing to spend at least $1 million more on upgrades, including burying overhead lines.

Alford said some problems are tied to continued construction downtown, including relocation of Interstate 40. But he denied the utility is having trouble keeping pace with Oklahoma City's growth.

"It's our responsibility to keep up with a growing city,” Alford said. "We have a $3 billion construction initiative planned for just the next three years.”

Jim Cowan, executive director of the Bricktown Association, met with OG&E officials on Friday — and agreed the district's merchants are losing patience.

"OG&E is going to have to come up with something to fix this,” Cowan said.

Cowan said he's also convinced the utility is doing all it can to address the problems.

Alford said he's confident the outages won't last another two years.

"We are making progress toward reliable upgrades in Bricktown on a day to day basis,” Alford said. "There are significant projects that are on board that will help ensure reliability that we need to get done in the next several months.”

SWOKC 4 me
07-18-2007, 11:49 AM
Yeah, I was there Monday evening waiting in line at Harkins Theater to buy my tickets to see the new Die Hard movie and Whooooshhh....Power went out at the theater, and I later found out everywhere else in BT. Luckily we had already finished our meal at Toby Keith's.

Finally an evening out without the kids and we still didn't get to see a movie. That bites!

07-18-2007, 02:31 PM
I was working that evening and had a lot of guest at the hotel tell me about it... no one was really complaining, actually most were complementing how well the businesses reacted to the outages... one family said they were eating at the melting pot and were able to finish a full meal and ate for free and also had free ice cream at the marble slab.