Like many businesses across the suburbs, Bob Chinn's Crab House in Wheeling was forced to close after flooding last week.
The restaurant on the Des Plaines River banks wasn't underwater, but the parking lot was, so even if customers could get around nearby flooded streets to get there, they had no place to park, said Deno Roumanidakis, director of operations for Bob Chinn's. Plus, water covered the drainage system and grease traps, so the dishwashers and toilets couldn't be used.
While Bob Chinn's reopened Monday, what ordinarily would have been a busy weekend -- involving 1,500 to 2,000 meals each day for the iconic restaurant -- instead turned into massive losses. Food costing at least $200,000 was discarded. About 50 servers lost money. Vendors lost business.
And that domino effect likely will continue until business returns to normal -- not just for Bob Chinn's, but for countless businesses hurt by severe flooding across the suburbs.
"It was a bad situation, but we'd rather be on the safe side," Roumanidakis said. "We just have not experienced anything like this in the 23 years I've been here."
Many other businesses were forced to close because either their properties were underwater or nearby streets were impassible. They ranged from Iskalis American Floor Show in Gurnee to Channel Inn Fine Wine and Spirits in Fox Lake.
Even the Perma-Sealoffice in Downers Grove was submerged and lost its power, phones and many service vehicles. It was forced to set up temporary offices to help other flood victims.
Along with the loss of customers, business owners face the daunting task of cleanup that will be time-consuming and costly, depending on insurance deductibles. Final figures won't be available for some time, experts said.
"The water damage from this storm had to be the worst I've seen and heard about in 10 to 15 years," said Craig Jasper, vice president of the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification, a global association based in Vancouver, Wash. Jasper is based in Park Ridge and trains disaster recovery specialists.
Many businesses will have to repair or replace damaged walls, flooring, equipment and even the inventory that otherwise would have been sold. Before opening, a business also must clean up and sanitize, which is especially vital for restaurants, Jasper said.
After that, businesses must check the structures to ensure they are secure. That process could take three to 10 days, depending on the extent of the damage and the size of the property, Jasper said.
"Those losses could be ongoing," he said.
Rolling Meadows-based J.C. Restoration Inc., which provides a variety of emergency and disaster services including flood cleanup, has received 1,185 calls so far from residential and commercial flood victims in Des Plaines, Oak Brook, Downers Grove, Elmhurst and several North suburbs, far more than what the company received during a 2011 heavy storm. The company so far has been assisting about 20 businesses and more are on the schedule.
As a restorer, the company aims to understand the nature of the businesses' operations and what is needed to get them back on their feet, said Joel Hossli, director of operations for J.C. Restoration.
"We do not simply look at these storms from a bricks and mortar view, but how can we be a temporary partner to these commercial entities in order to allow them to maintain their businesses," Hossli said.
A number of businesses in Lisle also sustained "significant damage" and are in cleanup mode, said Lisle spokeswoman Catherine Schuster.
"The Lisle business community as a whole is very hearty and determined," Schuster said. "Many of our businesses have successfully operated in the village for decades. They have survived the recent economic downturn and they will survive this flood."