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Point Loma gay bar plumbing issue racks up bills for owners, city says no issues reported

The Hole in the Wall's owners said sewer work the city did near their property has been faulty since 2015, pushing raw sewage into the bar, forcing closures.

SAN DIEGO — Hidden off Lytton Street in Point Loma, The Hole in the Wall has been drawing big crowds for decades. It's a San Diego staple, but a plumbing issue could soon plunge that status down the drain.

Karen Sherman, along with her son, owns and operates The Hole, as it's known to regulars. A City of San Diego spokesperson confirms the city reworked and moved part of the main sewer line on the block as part of a capital improvement project. That came with new plumbing for the bar itself.

"In the process of doing that, it's failed twice," Sherman said. "Initially, the minute they put it in in 2015, and it had to be redone and it failed again seven years later in March of 2022."

She explained the backup is "raw sewage backing up into [the] bar so that people are stepping in raw sewage."

Sherman says she's filed three claims with the city about the work, once in 2015 and in 2022.

CBS 8 obtained a copy of the latest one. 

According to the document, Sherman's first claim asked for about $9,600 in lost revenue from extended construction from when the project was first done. 

Then, she says it failed; the city asked for a plumber to survey the issue and confirm the problem. The city fixed the issue, but Sherman says they still rejected her claim.

In 2022, Sherman filed another claim, saying the system failed again. She says the city rejected that claim too. Sherman claims the bar is out close to $60,000, including $36,000 in emergency plumbing work they paid for to keep the bar operational.

"We did that to make it work, but to make it work completely we need to redo all the drains inside," Sherman said. "[That] is what the city did with an independent contractor, and we've asked the city to come back and make good that work."

CBS 8 reached out to the city's communications department, Mayor Todd Gloria's office, and Councilmember Jennifer Campbell's office, which covers the area where The Hole is.

We did not hear back from Gloria's office. 

Campbell's office directed us to the City of San Diego Risk Management Department, the same one a city spokesperson said they would connect with to get us information.

The spokesperson said the city has no reports of "... warranty, latent and patents defects" on the project, and no one's gotten in touch with public works regarding quote "...any sewer issue along Lytton Street or any lateral concerns for The Hole in the Wall bar..."

The spokesperson said the city would have investigated after the claim and shared those results with the claimant.

When CBS 8 shared that response with Sherman, she said her next step will be to recruit a lawyer to see what her options are, including possibly suing.

Meanwhile, she says the costs of port-a-potties to help take stress off the plumbing keeps racking up the bill for the entire mess.

"This is a mom-and-pop shop, it's not a chain," Sherman said. "It's here because of our love for the bar and the place."

A couple of takeaways we learned throughout our reporting:

  • Just because you file a claim with your city, town, or another public agency, doesn't mean the right department will find out and be able to address your concerns. Make sure to reach out directly.
  • As a business owner, find out what you're responsible for maintaining. 
  • For example, we learned in general, you're responsible for keeping up the sewer laterals that connect to the city's sewer lines. Those laterals may stretch out of your actual property.

At CBS 8, we are always Working for You and our San Diego community. If there is something you would like us to investigate, please share your idea here or email us at workingforyou@cbs8.com. 

WORKING FOR YOU: Why has the City of San Diego taken 4 years to replace a light post near schools? (Jan. 2023).

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