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Local businesses notice impact of water crisis settlement checks

The past few days have been busy for many local shops and restaurants in downtown Charleston, and many customers are attributing their purchases or outing to the money they received from the water crisis settlement. (WCHS/WVAH)

The West Virginia water crisis checks are out and local businesses are beginning to notice.

The past few days have been busy for many local shops and restaurants in downtown Charleston, and many customers are attributing their purchases or outing to the money they received from the water crisis settlement.

"The other day we looked at the books and we thought man, that was a great Tuesday,” Big Joe’s owner Joe Guilfoile said. “That was about 50 percent better than most Tuesdays."

Business was at an unusual high in downtown Charleston.

"We had great crowds Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so it'd been great for I think everyone in the downtown area,” Black Sheep general manager Kevin Madison.

Those businesses are attributing this wave of business to the water crisis settlement checks that are finally in the hands of the thousands of people impacted back in January 2014.

"Tuesday, we sold two pairs of shoes with water checks. People said I got my check so they're dumping it locally. And it's just great,” Tony the Tailor owner Tony Paranzino said.

Paranzino said the economic impact of the checks could be much bigger than people realize.

"Seventy-seven million dollars, if they spend that locally that spends around 5 times in the economy before it leaves so that's a huge economic impact,” Paranzino said.

But as the gains from those checks come in, it’s a reminder of the income that was lost while the water was not safe to use.

"I had to replace my boiler which was very expensive. We press every day and the water goes through our steam pipes, and we had just finished pressing that day and came out and turned the news on and they were like 'don't use the water',” Paranzino said.

"We had to shut down of course so we lost that revenue, and people couldn't come out, they couldn't shower, they didn't trust the water, so they're certainly not going to come down here and get a mixed drink that's made with that water and dishes that are washed in that water,” Guiloile said.

And while the checks won’t cover the cost of the businesses lost, they said free money never hurts.

"It took us a year to climb out of the whole that we dug, the year that the crisis happened, so I'm happy to have it."

Madison said if you’re going to spend money, you might as well put in back in the local economy.

"If there was one positive effect from that mess, we're seeing it now, and that's definitely great for all the locally owned businesses in the downtown community,” Madison said.

Businesses received $1,645, but several business owners said that won’t come close to covering the loss of business they experienced during and after the water crisis.

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