Kentucky restaurant gone adrift back to shore

AP News
Posted: Mar 13, 2011 6:46 PM
Kentucky restaurant gone adrift back to shore

Crews moved a floating restaurant back to shore on Sunday after it partially tore loose from its moorings and stranded more than 80 people on board for hours.

By late in the afternoon, the crippled Waterfront restaurant was sitting in the river near a landing, waiting for crews to secure it.

The restaurant broke loose on the Ohio River on Friday, requiring everyone on board to be rescued using ladders and ropes for a makeshift gangplank. Authorities said Cris Collinsworth, a former NFL star long associated with Ruby, was among those taken from the boat during the hours-long rescue.

It remained unclear Sunday why the restaurant pulled away from its moorings. The restaurant did not sustain heavy damage, officials said.

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Rob Reinhart told The Kentucky Enquirer that officials won't know what went wrong until the river drops and they're able to look at the mooring system. A gangway was ripped from the shore and left dangling from the restaurant.

One cable remained in place and kept the restaurant from colliding with the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.

Waterfront owner Jeff Ruby said Sunday he's unsure if the eatery will reopen.

"I don't know if I want to stay in the floating restaurant business," Ruby said. "I don't know if I want to sell it. I don't know if I want to relocate it."

Rob Carlisle, president of C&B Marine in Covington, said Sunday morning that officials were going to take the Waterfront to the old Covington Landing.

The Ohio River has been above flood stage for days, and other riverfront restaurants had closed because their gangways were under water. The river is nearly 4 feet above flood stage at 55.89 feet. The National Weather Service predicted it would start falling by Wednesday but would not fall below the 52-foot flood stage until at least Friday afternoon.

"Most people see the river as just something smooth, but right under the river it would be like a rushing Colorado River down through the Grand Canyon, basically," Carlisle said.

The upscale steak and seafood restaurant remained open while others closed because its gangways were designed to be usable in higher water.

The Coast Guard is investigating what happened but does not inspect permanently moored structures such as the restaurant, Reinhart said. He said the Coast Guard does not have the authority to tell restaurants to close because of river conditions.

Mark Wilson, who was dining at the restaurant, questioned how the mooring system failed and said a disaster was narrowly averted.

"I think it could have been pretty devastating for everyone on board," said Wilson. "Worst-case scenario, we would have all been getting dragged at the bottom of the river by the Markland Dam."

The restaurant will be moored to large marine pilings left at the Covington Landing until river levels return to normal. The Waterfront will then be moved back to its permanent home. Ruby said he hopes to reopen the restaurant but said Saturday that he had no timetable.