McHenry County businesses deal with lack of customers, property damage amid Fox River flooding
Image provided A drone captured an aerial shot during the weekend of the flooding at Cabana’s On The Chain Bar Grille near the Fox River in Johnsburg.
Gary Johnson thought about the potential for flooding in 2014 when he opened Cabana’s On The Chain Bar Grille along Pistakee Lake in Johnsburg. but he never expected the problem to become quite so large.
Johnson, whose business sits near the north entrance to the Fox River, said he received a call about 9 a.m. Wednesday from Fox Waterway Agency Executive Director Joe Keller telling him to immediately begin sandbagging his property as McHenry County braced for historic flooding.
The flooding of the Fox River continued Monday throughout McHenry and Lake counties and is expected to nearly reach record high levels, while updated weather forecasts in McHenry County are calling for 2 inches of rain through next Monday, according to the National Weather Service.
In the meantime, waterfront businesses can do little but brace their properties and hope to survive the floods.
Johnson said Johnsburg residents, including members of Johnsburg High School, helped him place a wall of about 3,000 sandbags between his floating piers and the outdoor patio of his restaurant while numerous local roads, including West Bald Knob Point leading to Cabana’s, remain closed because of flooding.
“The loss of business is going to be the major downfall of this year with May being a rainy and cold month,” Johnson said. “Usually here, the first couple months of the summer keeps us afloat during the wintertime. Having snowmobiles [in the winter] is excellent, but having nine tables on the inside opposed to 40 combined, it definitely hurts.”
Johnson said the interior of his restaurant has remained dry through the flooding, but he estimated damage to his piers and landscaping coupled with the cost of cleanup could cost as much as $50,000 – not counting business lost during the weeks Cabana’s remains closed.
“We’re hoping for the best and to be open again in two or three weeks,” Johnson said. “And that’s without any rain.”
Some businesses farther south along the Fox River have experienced more luck in outlasting the floods, including Broken Oar Marina Bar Grill in Port Barrington.
Bonnie Miske-Haber, who co-owns Broken Oar with her husband, said an outpouring of support from the customers, friends and members of the community have kept them in business during the flooding, despite nearby road closures and losing more than half of their parking lot.
Miske-Haber said bands, including some not even scheduled to perform, have lugged equipment over the water to set up and play for either regular customers helping keep the business afloat or “curiosity seekers” wanting to be a part of the historic flood.
“My big joke yesterday was I kept saying, ‘We’re packing [the cars in the parking lot] in like sardines today,’ ” Miske-Haber said.
Mike Haber, who has owned Broken Oar for 31 years, spent three 12-hour days trying to secure the boats housed in their seasonal marina and contact owners about the flooding. A bulk of Broken Oar’s business comes from the boat bar, which Miske-Haber said is “comprised.”
Miske-Haber said Broken Oar became “like a ghost town” during the record-setting 2013 flood, but she said dedication and support from customers has proved the difference during this year’s disaster.
“We’ve just been rolling with the punches,” Miske-Haber said. “It’s exhausting but rewarding. We’re very thankful.”
Thousands of sandbags have been distributed since Thursday to guard against the rising of the Fox River, and Keller warned that both residents and businesses “should be preparing for the worst.”
Residents also have flocked to hardware stores, such as Fox Lake Ace Hardware, in search of sump pumps, squeegees and other materials to help combat the flood.
Ace Hardware Assistant Manager Ben Arens said the store has seen about 50 more people a day on average since the beginning of the flood, which also has consumed about half of the store’s parking lot.
“We ran out [of supplies] a couple times, but we have other stores around the area that we’ve been pulling from to keep up on top of the demand,” Arens said.
Johnson said he still is hoping for the best when it comes to reopening Cabana’s, and he plans to mark the highest water level with a plaque once the water begins to recede, but he said information is scarce on how long that might be.
“The waterway is unsure because they’ve never dealt with water this high,” Johnson said. “We’re not getting much information from them because they just don’t have it.”