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Florida Keys--Fire Damages Restaurant

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  • Florida Keys--Fire Damages Restaurant

    Fire burns Big Pine restaurant
    Rotary, chamber lament the loss of meeting space

    By Christie Phillips [email protected]

    A devastating fire that broke out at Montego Bay Food & Spirits on Big Pine Key at 9:30 Tuesday morning burned several civic organizations on its way to ruining the popular local restaurant.

    "There’s a storage room upstairs in the back of the restaurant where we stored all our stuff," sighed Jim Cameron, president of the Big Pine Rotary. "We lost everything there. Some of the things were irreplaceable, like exchange banners we’ve received from Rotaries around the world. They were all there.

    "And we had lots of new equipment up there, like a new TV and VCR. And there was also a beautiful wooden podium our past president made for us."

    "We have our dinners there," lamented Carol Fisher, executive director of the Big Pine Chamber of Commerce. "I don’t know where we’re going to have our July 22 dinner. We might just be having it here and I’ll be cooking spaghetti and meatballs.

    "I don’t mind that," Fisher added. "But we just don’t know. It all happened so quick."

    The fire caused "significant damage," said Monroe County Fire Marshal Bill Surina. "It’s still under investigation, so I can’t give the details, and I can’t give fire loss damages yet. It was a very difficult fire."

    Surina said the fire was under control by 10:30, and put out an hour later.

    "We had two dozen firefighters out with seven apparatus," Surina added. "There were firefighters from Marathon, Big Pine, Sugarloaf and Big Coppitt, both professional and volunteer firefighters. It was a great response effort."

    Local civic groups are more concerned about restaurant owner Ed Whittaker than the material losses.

    "Ed is a good friend to all of us in Big Pine," Cameron said. "He’s a big contributor to the community. The restaurant was a gathering place for many folks on the island. Hopefully he’ll be able to rebuild."

    The fire caused severe damage to the two-story structure.

    "I went by there, and it’s pretty devastating," Cameron admitted. "Most of the second floor is gone, and a portion dropped down onto the first floor dining room. The kitchen may be OK, but I don’t know."

    Cameron said that luckily, not all was lost for the Rotary.

    "Our most crucial records are not there, they’re stored elsewhere. [Still], we’re sad about it. We had our meetings there. We’ll have our meeting this week, and maybe for a while, at the Big Pine Methodist Church. I don’t know what we’ll serve to eat, I guess this week we’ll have a pizza party."

    "We feel really bad about it," Fisher said. "Ed Whittaker has always been very supportive of the community. Even personally, anytime anyone needed anything, Ed was there. I’m going to call him and tell him if there’s anything the chamber can do, we’d love to help."

    At press time, it was still unknown what caused the fire, which apparently started in the back of the restaurant. Whittaker could not be reached for comment.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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