Provincetown, MA: Resort Town, Predominantly Gay, Facing Sewer Emergency

Visitors hoping to enjoy some lobster and other classic staples in Provincetown were turned away on Thursday, as the town’s sewer emergency caused restaurants to shut down during the busiest time of the year.

The town’s sewer emergency is for the main business district of the popular Cape destination, sparking eateries and bars to immediately cease operations on Thursday. The town shipped in portable toilets, as residents were told to “only flush when absolutely necessary.”

Workers were making repairs to the vacuum sewer system after thunderstorms triggered major electrical issues. Town officials estimated that they needed up to 48 hours to make the repairs and get the system back to normal.

“These are probably the busiest two weeks of the year, and then this happens,” Diarmuid O’Neill of The Squealing Pig gastropub on Commercial Street told the Herald.

“We were having a good summer, getting over all of the COVID from the last two years and then bang!” the restaurant owner added. “Hopefully it’s short-lived.”

The sewer emergency and resulting restaurant shutdown will have an “immediate impact” on those local businesses, said Paul Niedzwiecki, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.

“This comes at one of the worst times it can happen. This is peak season,” he added. “They’ve experienced an immediate loss, and they won’t be able to recoup that loss.”

Provincetown has declared a sewer emergency, ordering some restaurants to close during the busy tourist season and residents to reduce their water use as crews work to repair a problem that’s been ongoing for days.

The emergency impacts properties on the vacuum sewer system – it doesn’t apply to customers on the gravity system or to places with on-site septic systems. It could take up to 48 hours to fix the system, the town said.

The affected areas are on Commercial Street from Snow Street to Point Street, and Bradford Street between Conwell Street and Prince Street.

“Any restaurant or food service business in this service area will need to cease operations immediately,” the town said in an alert. “This is necessary to prevent a further public health emergency caused by sewer overflows, and we need to drastically reduce flow to allow the critical repair work in order to get the town back to full capacity.”

Affected residents are being told they “must reduce water use, including dishwashing, laundry, showering, and only flush when absolutely necessary.”

Public restrooms will be closed Thursday and Friday. The town has ordered 18 portable toilets, which will be located on Ryder Street next to town hall.

A line could be seen forming next to one portable toilet at 11 a.m.