Eight months after an electrical fire forced BAR to shut its doors for two weeks and to close one of its most popular party rooms, the popular New Haven pizzeria and nightclub is down but not out.
Though the telltale signs of the fire have long since been painted over, the incident has left lasting scars on the restaurant. Once a thriving site for many Yale parties, the upstairs “Grain Loft” has closed indefinitely, pending the construction of an additional staircase that will ensure a safer environment for partygoers, General Manager Frank Patrick said.
“The fire was definitely a wake-up call,” he said. “We realized that if more people had been upstairs when the fire broke out, they would have had trouble getting out.”
The road to recovery has not been easy for the restaurant, which Patrick estimated has lost 20 percent of its profits because of the closure of the loft.
Despite this setback, he said the progress made in restoring the building has been nothing short of miraculous. The February fire, which started after contractors making repairs on the roof accidently lit a rafter on fire, had left a gaping hole in the restaurant’s roof.
Although the fire damaged only the second floor and the roof of the building, there was rampant speculation about just how much damage the blaze left in its wake, said Bianca Maresca, who has been a waitress at BAR for two and a half years.
“Everyone was saying that the whole building burned down,” she said. “But it was just a small part.”
Like Maresca, bartender Rebecca Lang said she heard “a thousand different rumors” about the details of the incident, including speculation from employees who were kept out of the loop by the restaurant’s management.
“Nobody ever told me,” she said. “I never tried to ask.”
The financial ramifications of the fire have impacted more than the restaurant’s profits. In the days following the fire, many employees who depended on their jobs at BAR as their primary source of income said they were worried that they would not be able to make ends meet. Gotham Citi Cafe, another popular Crown Street nightclub, hosted a fundraiser a week after the fire to provide financial assistance for BAR employees.
Like several other employees, Maresca said the restaurant’s two-week closure hit her hard.
“This is my only job, so it took me a [long time] to get back,” she said.
She also said the loss of the Grain Loft was disappointing.
But Maresca said the situation at BAR has stabilized, and the tips still come her way. Though space constraints have forced BAR to cut back on the number of parties it can host, Maresca said they still generate revenue from slightly smaller parties they host downstairs, including parties for many Yale organizations.
Haven Reininger ’08, vice president of the Jonathan Edwards College Council, said despite the closure of the Grain Loft, hundreds of people recently turned out for the council’s “BAR Night.”
John Paredes ’07, who had been to the loft before the fire, said its closing did not stop him from going to BAR, and he said he would go back if it reopened.
“It’s just sort of a nice, laid-back, fun atmosphere,” he said.
The building was supposed to be insured for the damage, but BAR has yet to be reimbursed, Patrick said. The club is not planning to sue the roofing company responsible for the fire.