By Dave Russell
and Carey Phillips
One of the cornerstones of Sylva’s restaurant scene, Bogart’s at 35 E. Main St., was damaged by fire last Thursday. No injuries were reported in the incident, but the restaurant will be closed for a while.
The fire was reported at about 7:45 p.m., Sylva Fire Chief Mike Beck said.
The 145-seat restaurant was near capacity when a grease fire started in the kitchen. While kitchen staff battled the fire inside the building, Sylva firefighter Caleb Kelly was driving down Asheville Highway waiting at the light to turn left onto East Main.
“I looked over and saw the flames coming up out of the hood system at Bogart’s,” he said. “The flames were coming well above the roof at that point.”
Kelly radioed dispatch, which he thinks was the first report they had received. He then pulled into Bogart’s.
“When I went into the building we actually started the evacuation process,” he said. “Some people were making their way to the door. Some people were still not exactly aware what was going on.”
He said the evacuation went smoothly.
Beck arrived on the scene during the evacuation.
“There was fire in the kitchen and up into the second floor,” Beck said.
Damage was in the “several thousand dollars” range, he said. The fire and smoke damage was mainly confined to the kitchen and an upstairs meeting room no longer in use. There is water damage to the main level, he said.
Units from Cullowhee, Savannah and Balsam fire departments were called as mutual aid.
“We appreciate the cooperation,” Beck said. “We worked together really well, and we were able to make a good attack and knock it out.”
Harris EMS, Sylva Police, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and N.C. Highway Patrol also responded.
About 10 firefighting vehicles and 70 firefighters arrived, including 29 from Sylva.
Units remained at the fire about three hours, Beck said.
About an hour after the fire started, Bogart’s posted on Facebook, “There was a grease fire that got out of hand and got into the hood system. All staff and customers are accounted for and safe. Thank you for the concern, and we will keep everyone updated on next steps.”
Bogart’s owner Tim Hall had just left the building when his son, Elijah, who works at the restaurant, called him to tell him about the fire.
The evacuation went smoothly thanks to everyone helping out, Hall said.
“We had a lot of elderly who had walkers and the volunteer fireman who saw the fire in the roof helped to get everybody out,” he said.
Hall pointed out some good news.
“Nobody got hurt,” he said. “That’s the whole thing. We can replace buildings.”
Hall has a long list of people to thank, he said.
“First off, the quick response time of the fire department, all the volunteers and first responders,” he said. “Then our neighbors at Dunkin’ Donuts helped out with refreshment for the firefighters. Some former employees brought cases of bottled water. Scott Stanberry of Stanberry Insurance arrived to kind of guide us and help us with contacting our insurance company. We just ask for the community to continue keeping us in their prayers, and we will get it back open as soon as we can.”
Bogart’s will not re-open for catering or any other capacity until full restoration work is completed.
“The power is still off, and we lost all our food product,” Hall said.
Hall won’t change the name of the restaurant to The Phoenix, but it will rise from the ashes, he said.
“Servpro is doing the work, they’ve projected about a month for cleanup and then we’ll start reconstruction,” he said.
The menu would remain the same, though he might shrink it a bit, he said.
Bogart’s employs about 40 people.
The barn-shaped building held My Grandma’s Pancake Barn from its construction in 1971 until owner Grover Powell passed away in April, 2005. Powell owned several restaurants in the area, including the local Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Hall and his partner, Marty Lowe, bought the building to open a sister restaurant to the Waynesville Bogart’s.
Hall, working at the Sylva restaurant, offered a dessert to honor Powell. The dish consisted of five Oreo cookies dipped in pancake batter and deep fried, plated with tufts of whipped cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar.
Hall bought the Sylva building outright in June, 2009 when Lowe sold both of his restaurants.
On Friday, the restaurant promised in a Facebook post to keep its diners informed.
“Bogart’s exists and always has to serve and benefit the community. We love you and we will keep the community up to date with the progress and what the next steps are going forward.”