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Cannery Row Co. employee Jose Zavala holds a mop near the area where a water main broke on Cannery Row in Monterey on Friday.

A burst water main disrupted one of the busiest tourist days of the season on Monterey's Cannery Row, forcing the shutdown of numerous businesses and the closure of several blocks Friday.

Restaurants and hotels were closed for several hours during the busy, sunny day-after-Thanksgiving afternoon after the main broke about noon near Prescott Avenue in front of Sly McFly's restaurant and under one of the street's familiar overhead walkways.

"What a day to explode!" bartender Lea Anderson said. "It's supposed to get busy because of the Christmas tree lighting tonight."

Monterey police said three blocks were initially closed to traffic as crews from California American Water dug into the street and rushed to repair the leak.

A Cal Am spokesman did not respond to a request for information about the break.

"We were really busy and had to ask the customers to leave," Anderson said. "The health department told us we needed to close until further notice."

She said because the restaurant had no running water, county health officials ordered the closure about 1:15 p.m.

County Environmental Health Director John Ramirez said his department was called about 12:45 p.m. and a single inspector quickly went door to door, speaking with local business owners after the water was turned off.

"She was completely overwhelmed when she got the call," Ramirez said.

"One thing we didn't want to do was overreact and close the facilities on such a busy day," Ramirez said. "Our primary concern was water for washing hands and cookware," as well as fresh water for restrooms, he said.

Ramirez said the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant, a number of small food shops and some hotel rooms were left without water.

He said a few restaurants were considering using bottled water for washing and serving food on paper plates with plastic forks and knives, although they would have had to rent portable toilets with hand-washing stations if they wanted to stay open.

By 5 p.m., Ramirez said the water pipe was repaired and the county inspector was again making rounds, advising restaurants to flush out their pipes until the water ran clear.

He said there was no indication water from the lines was contaminated as a result of the break.

Diane Mandeville, vice president of marketing for the Cannery Row Co., said the annual tree lighting at Steinbeck Plaza would go on — more or less as scheduled.

"We do have to reroute the reindeer," she said.

Other than losing one block of parking on Cannery Row, she said, nearby Wave Street was unaffected.

She said Cannery Row restaurants and hotels were the ones impacted most by losing several hours of business.

Monterey Bay Aquarium spokeswoman Angela Hains said the facility's water was tested and was "good to go."

"We've been very lucky," Hains said. Other than hampering vehicle access to the aquarium's front doors for about an hour, she said, business wasn't noticeably affected.

"It's very busy," she said.

Julia Reynolds can be reached at 648-1187 or jreynolds@montereyherald.com.