What Running a Restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi Looks Like Right Now – Garden & Gun
Residents of Jackson, Mississippi are currently without reliable running water. Officials said on Monday that due to recent heavy rains, the Pearl River had overflowed and pushed water from the river into the larger of the capital’s two water treatment plants, causing problems that disrupted its operations. All tap water has been declared unsafe to drink, and with little or no water pressure in many areas, residents cannot shower or flush the toilet.
Schools have returned to virtual learning, businesses have temporarily closed, fire stations are warning they may not have enough water to do their jobs properly, and Jacksonians are using water every day. bottled water to brush their teeth, if they’re lucky. On Tuesday morning, the city quickly ran out of the bottled water it was distributing before stocking up on more supplies and activating the National Guard to get it out. The water crisis is making national headlines, but for many in Jackson, it’s no surprise. They have struggled with unsafe water and an erratic supply for years.
Business owners are scrambling, many of them just starting to get back on their feet amid the pandemic. Just a few months ago in Garden and Gun, contributor John T. Edge wrote about a young Jackson chef and restaurateur, Zacchaeus Golden, who runs Southern Soigné, a restaurant with a tasting menu located a few blocks from the state capital. We caught up with Chef Golden to glean some on-the-ground insight into what Jackson residents face and what it’s like trying to keep a restaurant afloat without running water.
How long have you been in Jackson?
I’m originally from nearby Belzoni, Mississippi, and have lived in Jackson for just over two years. I opened my restaurant in December 2021.
How does water shortage affect your restaurant?
It’s not good, but I’m lucky that mine is a very small restaurant. We seat twelve guests every evening, by reservation only. So I can use bottled water for cooking and serving to guests. And I was already doing that, before the current issue, because Jackson has had water issues the whole time I’ve been here. I never trusted him. Now I have to use bottled water even for washing dishes, so it’s an extra cost. For large companies that need a lot more water to operate, imagine the money that has been lost.
So Soigné Sud is still open?
Yes. We will continue as long as I have enough bottled water. I have reservations tomorrow and all weekend. But I don’t know what next week looks like.
Do you know how this affects other restaurants?
I haven’t spoken to anyone else, but I saw on social media that Elvie’s was closing for a bit. It’s a big operation, so it must be bad for everyone involved. [Update: According to its Instagram account, Elvie’s was able to open back up for dinner on Tuesday before shifting to a to-go only burger menu on Wednesday.]
What inspired you to start using bottled water before this week?
Water problems here are nothing new. The facilities are old. There is a lack of leadership and accountability among city officials. Everything is ongoing and getting worse. It’s extremely frustrating and a bit surreal. It doesn’t look like things could happen to this place in America. These are things you hear about in other countries. It comes; nobody talked about it until it got so out of hand it made national headlines.
How does this affect you at home?
I just moved to Vicksburg, and my mom is there now, thank goodness. [Golden’s mother, Margie, helps run Southern Soigné.] I wasn’t sure the move would be permanent, but now, with this, it might be. The decision is whether to go to my restaurant in Jackson or live somewhere where I may not be able to shower.
What is the solution ?
I don’t know exactly what to do, but that’s the next step. Other residents: ask more questions. If you have a voice, use it. Be frank and let’s bring like-minded people together to finally solve the problem. So much has been swept under the rug for so long. It is high time to act. Maybe national attention will help.
Find out more about Soigné Sud and see how you can help associations supporting the water crisis.