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Community Rallies Behind Indian-American Owned Restaurant That Exploded During Hurricane Ida in N.J.

Community Rallies Behind Indian-American Owned Restaurant That Exploded During Hurricane Ida in N.J.

  • Owner Jayesh Mehta of Saffron Banquet Hall, who says the calamity struck as business was picking up, is overwhelmed by the support of family and friends.

Indian American entrepreneur Jayesh Mehta is trying to wrap his head around the destruction and devastation at his restaurant in Manville, New Jersey, which faced the maximum brunt of Hurricane Ida that ravaged the northeast on Sept. 1. 

Mehta is the owner of Saffron Banquet Hall on South Main Street in Manville, which exploded in flames around 2 a.m. on Sept. 3. News reports say that authorities suspect a gas leak triggered by the flooding fed the flames. ABC 7 reported that firefighters were unable to access the fire, “which is surrounded by a flooded parking lot and also appeared gas-fed.” Residents from as far as neighboring towns claim they heard a loud explosion, reported.

No injuries were reported following the explosion, NBC New York cited a spokesperson with the borough’s Office of Emergency Management.

Mehta told American Kahani that an investigation is ongoing, but might take months until the results are revealed. Mehta has owned the restaurant and banquet hall since 2018. “Business was just picking up,” Mehta said, and parties were booked for this year and next. He has been sharing photos of the restaurant and banquet hall razed to the ground on his Facebook posts. He was able to go to the restaurant two days later.

Mehta told NJ Advance Media on Sept. 3 that he has only seen the flames and flooding in pictures and videos shared by neighbors.

Noting that this is the first time he’s dealing with a disaster like this, Mehta said he is trying to figure out his next steps. “I don’t know what to do and how to deal with something like this,” he told NJ Advance Media. “I haven’t had any such disasters like that in my life. Until when it was flooded and the water was inside, I was okay. I knew I had to repair it and fix it. Now, I don’t know. Something like this has never happened to me. I don’t know how to deal with it. I’ve had a sleepless night.”

Mehta, who lives in Edison, said he was at the restaurant when President Joe Biden visited Manville on Sept. 7. “I was at the banquet hall when he visited,” Mehta said. 

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The restaurant was a source of recurring income for Mehta, who has to think of the next steps now. “Even if I rebuild, it will take months, maybe years.”

Mehta’s supporters have started a GoFUndMe page to help Mehta and his staff “to stay afloat during these difficult times and help our small business resume back in the community as soon as possible.” Organizers of the fundraiser, who identify themselves as ‘Friends of Saffron Banquets,’ add: “Given the severe loss, the banquet facility is indefinitely inoperable. This unfortunate circumstance has left the staff unemployed and major reparations will need to be done which may perhaps take months or a year or more for complete restoration and operation.” So far $1,526 has been raised of the $50,000 goal. 

On his Facebook page, Mehta thanked all those who offered help. “THANK YOU ALL MY WELL WISHERS that reached out to me asking me “HOW THEY COULD HELP ?” during this time of crisis in my life whereby I have completely lost everything through my business ‘The Saffron Banquets, Manville, NJ’ which I had developed for last 4 years.”

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