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Newport restaurants could be affected by oils ordinance

After the recent discovery of a significant grease build-up in the conjoined sewer lines of two Newport restaurants, city officials are looking into an oils, fats and grease ordinance.

To prevent future backups and excessive costs related to the clean-up process, the city is drafting an ordinance that would require food preparation establishments in Newport to install grease traps in the lines.

The Public Works Department televised the shared sewer lines of Tinucci’s and the Red Rock Saloon in December after sewage backed up into the future brewpub. Prior to the event, the department said the lines were professionally cleaned twice a year.

The saloon’s new owners, Derrick and Autumn Lehrke, were in the process of closing on the property when the incident occurred. Autumn said in an interview that on Dec. 13, an appraiser was conducting a walk-through when they noticed a foul odor coming from the bar’s basement.

“We went down there and water was gushing everywhere,” she said.

Because the sale of the bar had not been finalized at the time, the former owners dealt with the issue.

Since then, she said the lines have been scoped and cleaned. Tinucci’s also installed a grease trap, prompting the city to suggest that all other restaurants follow suit.

The draft ordinance, still in early stages, would require all new food establishments to properly install approved “grease interceptors” in the waste line that leads from the sinks, drains or other equipment that generates grease.

Existing establishments will only have to install a catch if the city determines the discharge is restricting the public sewer line or if it causes added sewer maintenance costs.

Restaurant owners could see a monthly fine of up to $1,000 if the sewer line is out of compliance.

However, Public Works Superintendent Bruce Hanson said that some establishments might already have adequate grease trapping devices installed. The city plans to document and assess those businesses before requiring them to install costly equipment.

“I would hate to force someone to put something in that is extremely expensive if there is not a problem or if they are handling it correctly,” City Council member Bill Sumner said.

Businesses that could be affected should expect a notification letter in the coming weeks, City Administrator Deb Hill said.

The City Council is expected to pass the ordinance at its next regular meeting March 20.