Dearman’s Soda Shop manager Casey Evans heard about the fire at the iconic Jefferson Highway eatery through news reports, but he was shocked when he finally got to the restaurant where he’s worked since 2005.
The checkered floor was covered in soot Tuesday afternoon that made it unrecognizable, and parts of the ceiling had fallen through.
“Definitely wasn’t expecting this,” Evans said, standing at the entrance to the restaurant.
A Super Tuesday election watch party for Donald Trump supporters, scheduled at the soda shop, had to be moved to a new location after an early morning fire caused significant damage to the establishment, organizers said.
Firefighters were called to the restaurant at 7633 Jefferson Highway at 1:55 a.m. Tuesday, said Curt Monte, a Fire Department spokesman. The fire started in a storage room in the back of the restaurant. It was contained to that area and the roof, he said in a news release.
The rest of the restaurant sustained heavy smoke and heat damage, he said. Damage is estimated at $500,000 to the building and its contents, Monte said.
No injuries were reported, fire officials said.
Several other stores in the Bocage Village Shopping Center sustained smoke damage, Monte said.
The fire was brought under control at 3:08 a.m.
Fire officials have not officially determined the cause of the fire, but they do not suspect foul play, Monte said.
David Van Gelder, who has owned the restaurant since 2007, declined to comment, but Evans said the fire was likely caused by an electrical malfunction near the back of the store.
Dearman’s has not sustained any fire damage in the past, though Evans noted a 2006 fire next door that resulted in minimal smoke damage inside the restaurant.
Evans said he hopes to have the restaurant, which provides work for between 15 and 20 regular employees, up and running as soon as possible.
“A lot of customers have been supportive,” Evans said.