As Boston officials allowed the first business people and residents back into the Boylston Street crime scene area Tuesday, eight days after the Marathon bombings, employees of Whiskey’s braced themselves for what they would encounter inside the steak house.
The air reeked of spoiled food as about 17 staffers began to fill trash bags with food—including rotten tomatoes, bottles of sour cream—and other debris that had piled up on the floor from the chaotic evacuation in the moments after the bombing last Monday.
“It’s as bad as I thought,” said Whiskeys general manager Becky Caloggero as she surveyed the scene. She made a snap estimate that Whiskey’s losses from the bombing and week-long closure would exceed $250,000.
She said the bombing itself, and the week-long hiatus from work, had been draining on the restaurant’s staff.
“Everyone is emotionally spent and exhausted but anxious to get back to work,” Caloggero said.
The reopening of Boylston began at 10 Tuesday morning, as Boston officials escorted business owners and staff, and residents, beginning with those buildings the furthest from the blast sites, as they are least likely to have to contend with dangerous structural issues or other hazards.
“This is surreal,” said Declan Mehigan, owner of the Globe Bar and Cafe on Boylston, as he walked by the two bombing sites, where a blue tarp now covers the front of Marathon Sports and a black tarp covers the storefront of Sugar Heaven.
Inside the Globe Cafe, open bottles of White Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc lay undisturbed on tables as workers began to empty ice bins, clean sinks with bleach and eliminate accumulating fruit flies.
“I don’t know what to feel right now. It’s a tense time,” said Con Coen, a Globe Cafe manager.
The city is using the Hynes Convention Center as a staging area for residents and businesses, and by noon Ballroom B was mobbed, with waves of people flooding in. City officials are struggling to keep the crowd organized and are asking for patience as they explain how the scene will reopen.
“Do we know when we can tell our customers when they can come back?” one man asked as city officials held an impromptu conference with dozens of business owners.
“We don’t know that yet,” the official responded.
Meanwhile, other city employees were shuttling people back and forth, trying to get them into lines that represented each block of Boylston. For now, access is being limited to businesses and residents.
The first resident allowed back in, Stephanie Prashad, exhaled a deep sigh as she walked into her apartment on Boylston above the Pour House bar.
“You don’t know how much I missed my toothbrush,” she said.
A student at Northeastern University, Prashad has been sleeping on friends couches for the past week and was near the finish line when the bombs went off.
“It’s just all changed,” Prashad said. “I get more nervous when the ambulances go by.”
Meanwhile at the Life is Good store employees were cleaning up trash and collecting laptops, wallets, and cellphones that had been left behind after the twin explosions. For a company that promotes an upbeat attitude through its quirky merchandise, the devastation on Boylston has been hard to reconcile, said company director Roy Heffernan.
“Sadness hit all of us last week,” Heffernan said.Jenn Abelson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jennabelson. Casey Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. John Ellement of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.