Unless you have a blue whale hanging out in a tank in your backyard, it’s pretty difficult to use $300,000 worth of water. So imagine the surprise of two brothers whose new restaurant was slammed with a bill for $308,000 before it even served a single customer.
The brothers had operated a different restaurant on the same site but had closed it for remodeling, with a plan to reopen under a new name, reports the Charlotte Observer.
The monthly water bill at their previous restaurant was usually about $1,000, so they were shocked to receive a statement from the city in March claiming they owed $308,000 — for a 13-day period. The city then shut off their water.
“We were scared and didn’t know why we received it,” one of the men told the Observer of the astronomical bill.
“I couldn’t even sleep,” his brother said. “How’s that (bill) even possible?”
They hired a plumber to check for leaks but none were found, so they called the city to have the water reconnected. In April, they met with a city water supervisor who said the city would fix the billing mistake and someone would be in touch to let them know when it was resolved.
But no one called to update them, the brothers say, and the water was shut off again in late April. They got it back on again, and the restaurant opened in early May. But then they received a new bill, with $4,001 in late charges tacked on in addition to the previous balance of $308,805.
Shortly before the restaurant was set to open on Wednesday, the water was turned off again, forcing the restaurant owners to turn away 17 customers before they could get the city to restore service.
On Thursday, the city said the issue was resolved, and told the brothers that someone had apparently misread the meter. While declining to address specifics of customers’ bills, a spokesman for Charlotte Water told the Observer that it took so long to resolve the issue because sometimes it takes multiple visits and discussions in a process that can take weeks or months.
“In rare cases, a human or technical error occurs and Charlotte Water works with customers to resolve it, identify how the error occurred and take measures to prevent it from happening again,” the spokesman said.
The brothers are worried about how this all looks to customers of their new restaurant.
“I’m worried they’ll come back and do it again,” one said.