ROCK SPRINGS — After floodwaters swamped the heart of Rock Springs three times in 10 years, at least one business owner in the village has had enough.
Neil Caflisch said he’s not going to reopen his restaurant, the Coach House, which has been closed since Aug. 29 when a storm caused the Baraboo River to swell above flood stage. It happened so quickly, there wasn’t time to prepare, he said. Persistent rains in the following week brought a second round of floods.
“It’s just disastrous in there,” Caflisch said, adding that nothing was spared. “It’s too much damage, and I’m not gonna do it again.”
More rain fell Friday morning while Caflisch visited his now gutted restaurant, left without power, heat or water. Residue clouded a mirror on the wall where a bar used to stand, marking the height of the floodwater in a straight line more than 4 feet off the floor.
He noted appreciation for his customers and the “good people” in Rock Springs, who have told him they’re sorry he won’t reopen. But the downtown is on a floodplain, and he’s been through this before.
In 2008, another storm ravaged the area, flooding the restaurant with more than 5 feet of water. Caflisch stripped the inside of the building and rebuilt, including installing all new kitchen equipment.
“I’m not gonna do it, and then have it happen again in two, three years. I’m sick of it,” he said. “And it’s gonna happen — it’s gonna happen again.”
Rock Springs village officials are facing the same issue, considering options such as relocating the downtown district or fortifying the lower portion of the village to allow it to withstand flooding.
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Fewer than 400 people live in Rock Springs, according to a 2017 estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau. Without the Coach House, the village will be left with only Flood Zone Bar and Grill — but that’s also closed due to flood damage.
“It’s hard for a little community,” Caflisch said of the flood damage. “It’s just disgusting.”
Relief could come for some, however. President Donald Trump declared Wisconsin’s recent flooding a federal disaster Thursday, making Sauk County flood victims eligible for federal aid.
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During the disaster, the Coach House managed to offer aid to others: All of the food that would have spoiled was donated to Ochsner Park Zoo in Baraboo, according to a Sept. 8 post on the zoo’s Facebook page.
Caflisch, who lives in Baraboo, has owned the Coach House since 2002. It used to employ 25 people, both part- and full-time workers. While he doesn’t know what he’ll do with the building, he said his plans probably include spending more time at Square Tavern in Baraboo, his other business.