Benton restaurant opens for the first time since start of pandemic; forced to close after damage caused by winter weather

Local News

BENTON, Ark.— Days after a Benton restaurant opened for the first time since the pandemic began, they were forced to close again after pipes burst.

The owner of Wood Grill Buffet says it’s been a difficult 11 months, but times were made harder on February 15, when he walked into the kitchen and saw a steady stream of water coming from the ceiling.

“Just heard a mad rush of water,” said Elgin Hamner, owner of Wood Grill Buffet. “It just went downhill really quickly.”

He says the kitchen floor was under two inches of water and the problems didn’t stop there.

“Each day something new popped,” said Hamner.

For a week straight, Hamner recalls a new water line busting each day in their restaurant. He says they’ve had to pay thousands of dollars to repair the damage.

“It got to where we would just stay at the store—two or three of us– and just watch for a drip,” said Hamner.

He says it’s been one problem after another over the last 11 months. They willingly closed their restaurant in March 2020 when the pandemic hit and went nearly a year without an income.

“This topping off after the coronavirus regulations and needing to be closed. This has been the roughest stretch of my life,” said Hamner.

He has worked at the family business since he was 14-years-old. Hamner has seen the building through fires, a tornado, a pandemic, and now record snow.

“Who would’ve dreamed of the snowstorm,” said Hamner.

However, he says if they can make it through decades of hard times, he has no doubt they will make it through this, too.

“We’ve made it through this almost, we plan on being here a long time,” Hamner said.

They completed the repairs late Thursday afternoon and hope to reopen their doors to the public again on Friday.

As of Thursday, the city of Benton is still under a boil-water advisory. Hamner says they plan to use bottled water and paper plates if the status is not lifted by the time they open.

Hamner says even though the restaurant is self-service, he assures it is a safe place to eat during the pandemic.

 Guests are required to wear a mask and gloves when they go through the buffet line. In addition, Hamner says they change the utensils at the food bar every 20 minutes.

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