‘I think there’s more to come’: Jackson water crisis plays role in closure of popular Fondren restaurant

Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 9:47 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A popular Fondren restaurant has closed its doors permanently, citing hiring and water challenges.

Babalu announced that it was ceasing operations, effective Friday, September 30.

“It is with a heavy heart we announce the closure of Babalu Jackson,” the sign reads. “Due to multiple challenges, including hiring woes and ongoing water issues, it is no longer possible to continue operations.”

The original location of the tapas and tacos restaurant opened in 2010 at Duling Hall, according to its Facebook page.

Iron Horse Grill General Manager Andy Nesenson played a role in Babalu’s early success, serving as its general manager more than a decade ago.

“It was kind of one of the beginning restaurants in that Fondren area, and it thrived. It did fantastic,” he said.

Nesenson said the Capital City’s water system was causing problems for Babalu in its early years, and it continued to up until the restaurant was forced to shut it’s doors.

“You compound COVID, the boil water notice, the staffing issues, and increased inflation... I mean, we’re there to make a profit. We have to in order to stay alive,” he said.

In August, the head of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association warned members of the Jackson City Council that it was only a matter of time before the city’s water problems put restaurants out of business.

About a month and a half later, the Cracker Barrel on I-55 North temporarily closed for that very reason.

It was only a matter of weeks before Babalu followed suit.

“I think there’s more to come. I think this is just one of many dominoes to fall due to the boil water notice,” Nesenson said. “It’s hard to run a restaurant right now in the city of Jackson.”

The news of Babalu’s closure comes about two weeks after the state said a boil water notice impacting all surface water customers in the city could be lifted.

It also comes after state leaders took over operations at Jackson’s main water treatment plant after equipment failures there left tens of thousands of people without water.

We reached out to Babalu’s parent company, Spell Restaurant Group, and are waiting to hear back.

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