Gas leak disrupts downtown businesses

A gas leak on Crown Street closed off downtown streets to traffic beginning around 10 a.m. Wednesday, shutting off gas supplied to restaurants and closing some businesses in the immediate area.

Construction crews working on the new parking garage for Gateway Community College’s downtown campus hit a gas line while saw cutting the road, said John Dobos, director of public affairs for Southern Connecticut Gas. The leak forced the closure of streets in the block around the leak, including Temple and Church streets between Crown Street and the New Haven Green.

Haley Percy, who works at Kelly’s Restaurant and Bar, directly across from the leak, said she was able to see the leak while working.

“The gas was spewing out,” Percy said. “We were standing [in Kelly’s], and we could see it through the window.”

Dobos said because the gas is highly pressurized, it could appear to be spewing by pushing dirt out from under the road. Fire and gas crews responded immediately and were able to shut off the two valves that supplied the leaking gas line, Dobos said, adding that this shut off gas supplied to nearby businesses. Crews continued to monitor nearby buildings to check for gas buildup.

“The people’s safety was at the direction of the fire department,” Dobos said. “We did evacuate the buildings in closest proximity to the leak.”

Police evacuated the Temple Street Parking Garage, which has one of its exits on Crown Street near the leak. Other businesses on Crown Street, including The Wine Thief, were forced to close as well. Even some restaurants in the nearby area, while not forced to close, decided to do so because they could not serve customers while the gas was shut off.

Stewart Au, a manager at the restaurant Kudeta on Temple, said the restaurant did not open at 11 a.m. for lunch as planned because the kitchens’ stoves and ovens require gas.

“It’s gonna hurt the business,” Au said, adding that the restaurant usually serves between 25 and 30 customers during lunch hours on weekdays.

Some restaurants in the area remained open, Au said, because they were able to serve cold food. Still, pedestrians interviewed in the area expressed frustrations about having to walk farther to get to their destinations and being unable to eat at certain restaurants.

Donna Norton, who works for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities at 908 Chapel St., said she usually eats lunch in the Temple Street area once each week. Today, she was unable to eat at Temple Street Grill because the gas had been turned off.

Church and Temple Streets reopened to traffic around 12:45 p.m. Dobos said he expected Crown Street to reopen later in the afternoon, after crews finished repairing the gas line.

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