Harry Poulakakos, owner of Harry's Bar on Hanover Square, a legendary Wall Street watering hole and restaurant, was in a good mood when I visited him Thursday morning.
"Give me electricity, and I can open in twenty-four hours," Harry said. (Read more: When Will Power Return?)
Harry gave me a tour of the basement, which houses two bars and a restaurant. It was a bit damp but clean and had no odor. Harry's secret: he had a team in the basement Sunday night, ready to pump out water.
Harry says that water did not flood the basement from the ocean — it came right through the 300-year old foundations of the building. He was pumping by late Sunday night, he says, and even then water came up over three feet in the kitchen, the lowest part of the building.
He showed me the food lockers: all empty.
"We threw everything out," he said. Only a few cases of beer and the wine cellar remained relatively intact.
As we chatted, his staff of 150 or so buzzed around him, moving in and out of the building and Ulysses, the bar next door owned by his son Peter, who also owns many of the other bars and restaurants on Stone Street.
Anything they needed? "We could use more gasoline," Peter said, pointing to the generators.
(Read more: Why East Coast Gas Shortages May Not End for a Week)
Others were not so lucky: In lower-lying parts of lower Manhattan, on Bridge Street, just a few hundred feet away, there is a row of early 19th century buildings — the only ones surviving from the Great Fire of 1835.
(Read more: What's the Best Smartphone in an Emergency?)
These are small shops, bars, and restaurants. The street was buzzing with activity: the owners were airing out their shops and pumping out their basements, and hauling away ruined inventory.
Some were facing almost a complete loss of their businesses. Workers at Zigolini's restaurant were hauling food out of the basement, throwing out large quantities of steaks.
A few doors away, at the FIKA espresso bar, the owner told me the water not only went in the basement, but it went into the main floor of the cafe, several feet above ground level.
When I asked when he would reopen, he shrugged and said, "I have no idea."
—By CNBC's Bob Pisani
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