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Blackout losses could top $100 million

September 9, 2011 |  2:31 pm

Click here for more photos of the blackout. Blackouts in San Diego hit businesses hard Thursday, causing economic losses as high as $118 million, according to estimates released by the National University System Institute for Policy Research.

The total effect was “conservatively estimated” at between $97 and $118 million, said Erik Bruvold, president of the San Diego-based think tank. The total included about $70 million in productivity losses as well as government overtime and perished foods.

Bruvold said the estimates were based on figures from the San Diego Gas & Electric system and did not cover effect in other blackout areas such as Orange County and the Imperial Valley.  

PHOTOS: Blackout leaves millions without power

In San Diego, supermarkets were forced to throw out spoiled goods, including meat and dairy markets, and some stores strung yellow tape across milk sections to alert customers.

Gonzalo Gonzalez, the owner of a Mexican restaurant in Lemon Grove, east of San Diego, spent Friday morning lugging boxes of avocados and tomatoes into his freezer. “We lost everything yesterday: avocados, shrimp, beans, not to mention all of the lost customers. It was a disaster,” he said.

At the Keating Hotel in San Diego’s downtown Gaslamp district, employees lined hallways with candles, distributed flashlights to guests and carted in free pizza and drinks. The lobby was turned into a lounge, and many people mingled into the late hours. Nobody got stuck in the elevator, unlike some guests at other hotels.

“Everybody was so understanding,” said Parker Smith, a concierge at the Keating. “It could have been so much worse.”

When the lights went out at the Quality Social restaurant and bar, the managers put up signs announcing “Blackout specials until the lights come on,” and the customers streamed in all night, served by flashlight-wielding bartenders and waiters.

Co-owner Chris Freeman was still calling in credit card purchases on Friday afternoon since the blackout prevented processing them on Thursday. Tourists and locals jammed into the candlelit corner eatery and it turned into a better-than-average night, he said. They only restocking needed was whiskey and craft beer drained by the drink specials.

“We could have turned out the lights and shut our doors, or tried to capitalize on it,” he said. “I’m glad we had that mentality.”

RELATED:

FULL COVERAGE: Southern California blackout

Grocery stores toss food spoiled during blackout

Power company employee caused massive blackout, utility says

-- Richard Marosi in San Diego and Sam Allen in Los Angeles

Photo: The San Diego skyline Thursday evening. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

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