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Blackout means red ink for many

Prudential Center businesses among last to be restored

By Jenn Abelson
Globe Staff / March 16, 2012
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As the blackout at the Prudential Center extended deep into Thursday, businesses and merchants began counting up the losses from the power outage that shut down one of Boston’s largest office and retail complexes.

After keeping products on ice for nearly two days, Legal Sea Foods managers - working with flashlights in the dark - began dumping pounds of fish into trash bags Thursday afternoon because they could no longer maintain proper temperatures at the chain’s restaurant in the shopping mall.

Luciano Manganella, who owns specialty shop 344, said he has lost at least $12,000 in business since the blackout forced the closure of his busiest store.

“It’s been a total disaster,’’ Manganella said. “I am shocked that one of the busiest shopping malls is without power in Boston. It should have been a priority.’’

The Prudential Center, with more than 3 million square feet of office and retail space and about 8,000 employees in the Prudential Tower and adjacent buildings, was the last major property without power Thursday as a result of a substation fire that left more than 20,000 NStar customers in the dark Tuesday. Some Prudential Center tenants, including the Sheraton Boston Hotel and Shaw’s supermarket, switched to generator power, while others, such as the law firm Ropes & Gray LLP, temporarily moved part of their operations. Partners HealthCare, meanwhile, had employees work from home or at the chain’s hospitals.

Laura Marchisi Sesody, a spokeswoman for Boston Properties, which operates the Prudential Center, said Thursday afternoon that the company worked with NStar to restore power as quickly as possible. Adjacent buildings at 101 and 111 Huntington Ave. ran on generators supplied by NStar, but The Shops at Prudential Center - the mall’s official name - remained closed for two days because of the outage.

Guests at the Sheraton Boston Hotel on Dalton Street navigated halls with flashlights and glow sticks and went without hot showers for two days. But limited power from backup generators and others provided by NStar made it possible for the Sheraton to avoid moving guests to other hotels.

Kitchen workers have not been able to prepare food in-house, however, so the hotel brought in pastries and boxed lunches for meetings, several of which were relocated to rooms with more natural light.

To make up for the lack of amenities, the staff tried to provide guests with extra perks, such as providing more sightseeing tips, said marketing manager Michael Pereira.

“At the end of the day, the guests are what is valuable to us,’’ he said, adding that he did not know if the hotel would offer discounts or refunds.

“We have some guests that are upset,’’ Pereira acknowledged.

Many questioned how one of Boston’s biggest commercial hubs could be among the last to get electricity back.

Ropes & Gray, the city’s largest law firm, was forced to shut down its Prudential office, with about 900 employees. In addition, its voicemail was down for part of Thursday. The company managed to get phone calls redirected to its New York office, and lawyers used backup facilities in Marlborough or worked from other offices.

“While we’re disappointed it has taken so long for service providers to restore telephone and power, in this day of cellphones and remote computer access, we continued to be able to serve clients throughout the service outages,’’ said Tim Larimer, a spokesman for the law firm.

Jay Yada, general manager at Haru, stayed at the sushi restaurant until 2 a.m. Wednesday to wait for dry ice to arrive so he could preserve perishable food. Haru, which runs on the same electrical switch as the Prudential, estimated losses of nearly $16,000 because of the two-day shutdown.

“Being closed has been more stressful than being open,’’ Yada said.

Legal Sea Foods projected losses to total tens of thousands of dollars at the Prudential mall location, its second busiest store. Two of the company’s other restaurants - in Copley Place and Park Square - were also affected by the blackout.

Deborah Rosati, the chain’s quality assurance officer, said workers iced fish and other food for as long as possible, but ended up throwing most of it away at the Copley and Prudential sites.

“You have to make the decision at some point that the product does not meet our standards anymore, and we just need to start over,’’ Rosati said. “We’re a bit surprised it’s taken so long for the power to come back. We expected the Prudential to be restored first.’’

Katie Johnston, Casey Ross, Steven Syre, and Todd Wallack of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jenn Abelson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jennabelson.

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