Sweet Sue's to reopen, with a little help from the CWC

A closed-for-business sign at Sweet Sue's. Photo by Julia Reischel.

Rejoice, O pancake-starved Phoenicians: Sweet Sue's, closed since March due to a flood-related septic system failure, is slated to open again by next weekend, owner Suzanne Taylor told the Watershed Post yesterday.

"The latest we should be open is the 21st. That's what we're shooting for," she said.

Over the next week, the building that houses the restaurant and a few upstairs apartments will be getting a new septic system, thanks to a grant of about $18,000 from the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC). The CWC has agreed to cover 60 percent of the cost of the new system, which engineer Rex Sanford has estimated will cost $29,870.

Taylor said that the CWC funding was an unexpected bit of good news for her beleaguered business.

"The way things have been going for me lately, I was expecting nothing," she said. "I'm so grateful to the CWC."

The planned system has already been reviewed and approved by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

But to stay in the good graces of the state, Ulster County and New York City, the restaurant will have to get serious about water conservation. Because of the physical limitations of the site, the new septic system cannot accept a flow rate of more than 990 gallons a day without risking another failure.

According to a letter sent by Sanford to the DEP last month, the building's historic flow rate has been over 1,500 gallons a day: 1,090 from the restaurant, and 413 from the apartments above. To keep her flow rate down, Taylor will have to limit the occupancy in the apartments and also use less water in the restaurant. From Sanford's letter:

The numbers for the apartments were taken when there were six to eight people living upstairs. At present there is one person occupying an upstairs apartment and a design flow of 75 GPD is what is anticipated. With regards to the restaurant, all fixtures will be changed to low flow and we will be working with the pot washers to ensure that the flow numbers from the restaurant are reduced to a flow of 915 GPD.

Another letter from Sanford to the state Department of Environmental Conservation says that the Ulster County Health Department will probably require the restaurant to have its flow meter read daily, to ensure that the flow rate stays under 1,000 gallons per day. If the flow rate goes above that threshold, Taylor will have to apply for a permit to discharge wastewater (known as a SPDES permit) from the state.

With at least three government bodies and a quasi-governmental nonprofit agency involved, it's a wonder that it only took two months to get Sweet Sue's back in operation. Think the summer tourists stopping in Phoenicia for a lark will realize that heaven and earth got moved for their pancakes?

Probably not. But they won't be any less delicious for all that.