By Dave Russell
A July 15 fire knocked Bogart’s down but not out. The N.C. Department of Transportation project to widen and improve N.C. 107 and Asheville Highway has delivered a haymaker that put the iconic restaurant on the mat. For good.
“A person from DOT contacted me a couple of weeks after the fire and said that he felt like he needed to contact me before we started to remodel,” owner Tim Hall said. “We sat down for a meeting and he told me the state was going to come in and take the entire property for the road widening. Sort of a shocker.”
Work was underway to repair the fire damage to the 145-seat restaurant.
“The (fire) mitigation was in process and we were given answers that it would take four to six months to re-open and that is what we were telling the community,” Hall said.
Before that “shocker,” the planned impact from R5600, as the project is called, was minimal, Hall said.
“They were not really taking anything,” he said. “They would be putting an underground easement for utilities. That was the first map that we were shown, and then he brought me the 75 percent map showing that it said on there ‘remove existing structure.’ I said, ‘Do you mean you are going to take the entire building?’ He said ‘Yeah.’”
“I guess just with my age and everything, we’re not going to rebuild anywhere,” Hall said. “I’m just going to take a retirement. I think the Lord has answered questions and this is our answer to what we’re supposed to do.”
Hall, 62, is a 38-year veteran of the restaurant business.
“It’s time to move on,” he said.
Bogart’s employed about 40 people before the fire.
“I did meet with the employees a few weeks ago and told them directly about what was going on,” he said. “That was a hard time. I still employ two people from the first day we opened up. May 23 was our 16th anniversary. It is like family.”
Bogart’s has long been a staple of Sylva’s restaurant scene and a common gathering place for the community.
“I just want folks to know we appreciate all the community involvement and the community,” he said. “It was a very hard decision to make. It all is because of the state.
“The sad part of it is that it’s hard to find a good piece of chicken and ranch dressing out there,” he said.
“Although we are saddened to hear Bogart’s will not be reopening, we are excited for Tim to begin his retirement and wish him the best of luck in this new chapter,” said Kelly Donaldson, assistant director of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. “Sylva will certainly miss one of the staples of family dining in Jackson County.”