Friday, June 15, 2007

End of an Era?

The E-mails started coming in around 5:45 last night. Did the Growler know that Sarge's Restaurant was on fire?

The Cranky One raced back to Alexandria to find that, indeed, Sarge's Restaurant — a Parker-Gray landmark for more than 40 years — was ravaged but not destroyed by a two-alarm fire that apparently started in the kitchen.

Fire Department officials told the Growler that if the conflagration had started in the middle of the night it would have been even more destructive, since there would have been no-one on the street to notice the smoke and call 911. Fortunately the restaurant was closed at the time. No one was present and no one, including Sarge, was hurt.

Adjoining houses appear to have escaped damage although the smoke was considerable. Many neighbors noticed a strong toxic smell, perhaps from burning plastic, but few if any saw flames.

Observers on the scene said fire engines were dispatched from as far as National Airport. City Manager Jim Hartmann later stopped by Queen and Fayette to inspect the damage, telling the Growler and Wilson Thompson of Calhoun Tax Service that he routinely gets summoned at all hours for fires of this magnitude, which fortunately are uncommon in Alexandria.

Sarge told the Growler last night that he had been in the restaurant earlier in the day but had left. He also said that the dining room was undamaged.

At this point it sounds like Sarge wants to reopen soon — he told the Growler that he had hoped to hold out at least another three years — but a lot probably depends on the level of his insurance coverage and what the City will require in terms of renovation before he can reopen. That might be considerable.

Alexandria police were out this morning guarding the premises, since a number of windows were punched out as firemen fought the blaze and, along with a hole in the roof, had not yet been boarded up.

Our sympathies go out to Sarge, a neighborhood stalwart and an institution in his own right.