Owner: BJ's will return to Danville
DANVILLE - While investigators could not determine Monday the cause of a fire that heavily damaged two buildings, the owner of BJ's Steak and Rib House said he will rebuild in town.
Fire broke out on the second floor of the well-known restaurant at approximately 8 p.m. Sunday, according to authorities, and quickly spread through the floor, where the restaurant's offices are located.
According to Danville fire officials, the flames were spotted by firefighter Brad Harvey, an officer with the Continental Fire Company, Danville, who was in the area. He called 911.
Fire officials said Monday BJ's, 291 Mill St., and the adjoining business, thrift/consignment shop Abigail's Attic, 295 Mill St., were heavily damaged by smoke and fire.
Danville Mayor Bernie Swank was on scene Monday and said he had spoken with restaurant owner, Bob Kirkpatrick. The restaurant owner told the mayor staff said the restaurant's phones kept ringing, prompting them to investigate.
"They noticed the smoke in the second floor dining area," Swank said Monday.
Fifteen customers were reportedly in the restaurant when the fire began. Everyone was evacuated and no injuries were reported.
State police fire marshal Kirk Renn was on scene Monday and said he could not determine a cause because of the amount of damage. He believes the fire started in an upstairs office, and it's not considered suspicious.
Approximately 40 employees worked at the location. Kirkpatrick, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Sue, told them to file for unemployment while the restaurant is out of commission.
Swank said he is saddened by the loss of the business, which has become a staple in downtown Danville.
"I feel terrible for the owners and the employees, it's a devastating loss," Swank said.
Swank said the restaurant, known for its specialty steaks, barbecue ribs and chicken and an oyster bar, has gained a good reputation, both with local clientele and those visiting from out-of-town.
"It was a thriving business, and we want to see that come back to Danville," Swank said.
A call to Kirkpatrick at the restaurant's Selinsgrove location was not returned Monday. Kirkpatrick told WNEP-TV Monday that BJ's plans to stay in Danville and will return, whether at its current location or at another location in town.
Abigail's Attic, operated by the Geisinger Medical Center Auxiliary, was also affected by the fire. While the damage was contained to the second and third floor, the auxiliary will also be moving, at least temporarily, said Michael Ferlazzo, public relations specialist for Geisinger. The building is owned by Michael Kuziak.
"Firefighters cut out portions of the roof on the building that is home to Abigail's Attic, including taking out parts of the interior ceiling," Ferlazzo said. "The building's owner has advised us to relocate our merchandise and equipment to a location he owns across the street."
Ferlazzo said there is no timetable for reopening the store.
One hundred employees working at the Geisinger Mill Street office building at 285 Mill St. worked from home Monday; power was cut off to that building and there was some water damage and smoke residue in the Geisinger Mill Street office. Those issues have been resolved, Ferlazzo said, and employees are expected to return today.