Merrimack Valley Businesses Expect Challenges as They Reopen After Gas Explosions

Chama Grill in North Andover, Massachusetts, has been cleaned, the food has been ordered and, most importantly, the gas has been restored.

Owner Shahram Naghibi plans to reopen Wednesday night for the first time since the gas line explosions that rocked Merrimack Valley.

"Extremely happy," said Naghibi.

But he is concerned. Naghibi says it will be like establishing a whole new business.

"That is going to be the challenge," said Naghibi. "To get our customers back to this place. It took six years to build it, and five weeks to ruin it."

He is worried about whether customers return. He also needs to find more staff.

Six employees — bartenders, servers and cooks — have left.

"They had to go make money," said Naghibi. "They have to survive. They have families."

In nearby Andover, Jassi Pabla couldn't wait any longer for the gas to be restored. He's made the costly move of converting to propane temporarily so he can reopen his restaurant.

In all, he estimates he's out some $40,000 in lost food, revenue and new equipment to get his business back open.

"I still pay from my pocket," said Pabla, who owns Raagini Indian Bistro. "I paid for the plumber, the electricians, the propane companies."

He's counting on being reimbursed by Columbia Gas.

"They say they will take care of us," said Pabla. "I hope that's true."

At Chama Grill, where even the beer on tap had to be thrown out, the owner says this whole ordeal has cost him about $100,000.

"It might take years to recover from this," said Naghibi.

Hundreds of businesses across the Merrimack Valley were impacted by the gas line explosions. More than 80 are still closed down.

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