Update: October 27, 2022, 11 a.m.: Low Bar and Hi Felicia have since reopened for business as of October 19.
What started as a drain backup last week at Oakland’s Low Bar turned into a building-wide issue, when the issue turned into a sudden pipe replacement project that forced both Low Bar and Hi Felicia to shut down operations for days. The two businesses share a building at Webster and 23rd streets, with Osha Thai Express restaurant between them; Low Bar co-owner Matt Meyer confirmed the issue forced the bar and restaurant to close for seven days because of the issue.
Meyer says they first noticed the drains began backing up Tuesday towards the end of the night, but when they called a plumber to snake the drains the next day, they discovered the pipes and main drain to the building needed to be replaced. The landlord brought in a team to replace the pipes, but Low Bar was forced to shut down operations, as the flooring at the bar was excavated to work on the plumbing. Meyer says he had hoped never to see the floors in disarray again, after dealing with an extensive buildout process to open the bar in the first place. “They had to rip open our floors again, which was so disheartening to see after opening through COVID and seeing all of our floors have massive holes in them,” Meyer says.
Imana, chef-owner at Hi Felicia, confirmed via social media she was also forced to close the restaurant for a few days due to the pipes. (Meanwhile, calls to neighboring business Osha Thai Express went unanswered; it’s unclear whether the plumbing issue also affected that business.) Meyer says he thought Low Bar was in the clear for reopening Friday, October 14, but was forced to re-shut down after four hours of service. There was some anxiety among staff around the temporary closure, but Meyer says they ensured employees would be paid during the shutdown. “Just being shut down for a week as a small business is pretty brutal,” Meyer says.
As of Tuesday, the bathroom and flooring at Low Bar is patched up and if all goes well, Meyer says they will be back open and running by Wednesday, October 19 with a new menu and brunch by the weekend. Imana, meanwhile, says Hi Felicia is reopened as of Monday, October 17. “We’ve had such a string of bad luck here, that at this point, there’s a resilience,” Meyer says. “We had our water heater explode, we’ve been broken into twice, all these crazy things — so at this point, every time something happens like this, we’re almost reinvigorated to just be open.”