Hurricane Maria pounded Puerto Rico, leaving the island's infrastructure severely damaged and virtually everyone without power, phone service, and clean water.
In an interview with CNN, Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, said electricity might not be restored for months. That means many Miamians with family and friends on the island haven't been able to reach their loved ones to make sure they weathered the storm.
Pubbelly's Jose Mendin was in Barcelona on a business trip when the storm struck the island. A native of Puerto Rico, Mendin was anxious to know how his family and restaurant, PB Ysla, fared in the storm. Mendin finally reached people on the island, and he paints a grim picture of the current situation.
On an overseas call with New Times, Mendin first and foremost says he is grateful that his family is alive. "My mom and dad are in Miami. They came before the storm, and my brother is OK." His brother's apartment did not do as well. "It's destroyed. Windows were blown out, and one of the outside walls came down. I know a lot of apartments have windows that were blown away."
Friends who live near the restaurant, which opened in April 2017, say it looks intact from the outside, though Mendin is doubtful the glass-roofed patio survived. That, he says, isn't important. What is worrying, though, is the fact that he hasn't been able to reach the people who work there. "We're calling everyone, and no one is answering. We've tried the chef, my investors, the employees. I don't know if the lines are down. I'm just concerned about their safety. I want to know, more than anything, how they are. I'm not worried about anything that has to do with the business."
The chef says the restaurant and its people are very special to him. "Our restaurant is in Santurce. It's a neighborhood in San Juan that's a lot like Wynwood in many respects. I was born in the hospital three blocks away."
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Mendin says his hometown was given a one-two punch from Irma and then Maria. "They were just getting over Irma a few weeks ago. There were a lot of people already without power. Though people took it seriously, there's no evacuation on the island. People stay in their houses unless it's a very unstable house."
Mendin and his Pubbelly partners immediately jumped into action to help the island by partnering with United Way's Puerto Rico campaign. Mendin says he and his partners worked with United Way to feed people in the Florida Keys. "We raised money from purveyors and investors and made 200 meals a day. I've done dinners to raise money for charities, but I never worked directly with United Way."
Pubbelly has started a campaign with United Way to collect donations. Every dollar raised will go toward providing emergency needs such as food and water, as well as long-term items to help rebuild the “Island of Enchantment.” To donate to Pubbelly's United Way campaign, visit unitedway.org. In addition, Pubbelly Noodle Bar and Pubbelly Sushi will begin accepting cash donations to United Way this Saturday.