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'It's Quite Scary': Restaurants Struggling After Merrimack Valley Explosions

ANDOVER (CBS) - The freezer is empty at Palmers restaurant in Andover. It's been closed nearly a week with function rooms standing still in time when the business was suddenly evacuated last Thursday after the explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley. Without any gas it will be closed indefinitely.

"No one wants to give us a timeline on this," said owner John Ingalls. "I think it could be weeks for sure."

Merrimack Valley explosions
A sign on Andover restaurant after the Merrimack Valley explosions (WBZ-TV)

Ingalls stood in the claims line at old town hall in Andover hoping to recover lost wages and food at the restaurant he's owned for 30 years and worried for his employees.

"There's not a lot of answers to give to my staff," Ingalls said. "I have 40 employees and it's quite scary."

Losses are already in the thousands at Raagini Indian Bistro in Andover. In what should be a bustling kitchen, freezer shelves are empty of food that had to be thrown away. Each day they wait with promises the gas will be reconnected. "I called this morning and they said you guys are on top of the list. It's the same answer I get every day," said owner Jassi Pabla.

Empty freezer at Palmers in Andover (WBZ-TV)

Restaurant after restaurant, 67 eating establishments in all, have been closed in town. While Governor Charlie Baker, who met with business owners Wednesday, says he's trying to help them get through the crisis, one thing is clear. "The assessment, mitigation and rebuild is on Columbia (Gas). They're going to pay for it," he said.

Even when the gas is turned back on there will still be a delay for the restaurants to re-open. Each and everyone will have to be inspected by the health department.

In the meantime, Jassi Pabla also wants to keep his payroll going. "Because they have families to feed," Pabla said. "They've been with us for a long time."

Restaurant owners want to know when to expect service and how they will recover. Governor Baker says there should be a timeline in the next few days.

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