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As Russian River Floods, Guerneville Restaurants Fight to Stay Above Water

”Downtown Main Street is an island”

Heavy Rains Bring California’s Russian River To Flood Stage Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Restaurateur and hotelier Crista Luedtke arrived home to her flooded town of Guerneville on Tuesday night to a terrible choice. After returning from a restaurant research trip to Germany, Luedtke found a town divided by an overflowing river: She could either head home to her partner and their dogs, or check in on her hotel and restaurants on the other side of Guerneville.

Leudtke chose her businesses: Her partner and their dogs will be just fine.

Now, ”I’m stuck on one side of downtown, my partner and our dogs on the other side,” says Luedtke with a laugh.

The owner of several Guerneville restaurants, including Boon Eat + Drink and the El Barrio mezcal palace as well as the Boon Hotel, Luedtke has been flooded out before. In fact, the first week that she took ownership of her Boon Hotel in 2008, the Russian River swelled beyond its banks and swamped the buildings, pool, and landscaping.

”Then we took on a ton of water in 2011 and 2013,” she remembers. “2017 was pretty bad, too. But this is the worst since ‘96.”

This year, Luedtke’s team had time to sandbag the grounds and tarp the hotel’s pool to keep debris from it.

”Downtown Main Street is an island,” Luedtke reports. The nearby Betty Spaghetti has flooded, she says.

“We’re on the high side of Main Street, which is the last to go under. The results are fine so far. We’re crossing our fingers; we’re sandbagged and we’ve elevated our equipment, like compressors, to try to minimize the losses.”

As for that R&D trip to Germany, Luedtke says she is planning to open a German-influenced cafe called Brot, which translates to “bread” and “livelihood,” this summer. “I really want to point out that, for everyone involved, working here is their livelihood, this is what we do,” she says of the name.

Brot is also in part an homage to her parents, who owned a full-service spot called Bratskeller when she was a child growing up in Wisconsin. In the documentary about Luedtke’s transformation of Guerneville, Empire on Main Street, she remembers standing on a box at the Bratskeller’s bar to mix cocktails for the adults.

With the Russian River expected to crest a 46 feet later today, Luedtke is cautiously optimistic that her business and those of others on Main Street might escape gross damage.

“We should take on water at 47 feet, so we might just squeak by,” she says.