Southeast fire destroys apartment, closes pub

No people were injured in the blaze, and the cause of the fire is still unknown.

by Bryce Haugen

The beer abruptly stopped flowing at a Southeast Como bar Sunday night while fire crews doused a blaze in an upstairs apartment.

Though no humans were injured – a dog died – the fire displaced several residents and shut down The Sportsmans Pub. Bar owner and landlord Joe Radaich said he hopes to reopen later this week after city health inspectors give the go-ahead.

On Monday, a damage estimator surveyed the devastated apartment at 2124 Como Ave. Southeast, formerly occupied by two college-age tenants. The remains of video games, clothing, furniture and a drum set were scattered throughout the unit. The residents, visibly shaken and standing beside debris outside the building, declined to comment Sunday night.

A fire department report issued Monday said the cause of the blaze is unknown and will be investigated further. But the report said there were no fire patterns around the outlets in the bedroom, where the fire apparently originated, which supports Radaich’s claim that it wasn’t sparked by an electrical issue.

“It wasn’t something that was wrong with the apartment,” Radaich said. “It was user error.”

The residents, who accepted temporary relief services – mainly hotel rooms and food – from the American Red Cross on Sunday, told fire investigators they don’t smoke or use candles, the report said.

“They’re pretty distraught,” Radaich said. “They lost everything.”

The bar downstairs suffered far less damage, the owner said, although water destroyed the motors that run the coolers, warming the tap beer supply – a debilitating conundrum.

“That’s pretty much what we sell here,” Radaich said.

After examining the damaged apartment Monday, Jonathan Bymel, an estimator with a full-service restoration company, said repair costs would range between roughly $50,000 and $100,000. A better estimate should be available Tuesday, he said, after insurance adjustors examine the building.

A ‘hectic’ scene

Several witnesses stood outside Manning’s Café and Bar across the street from Sportsmans Sunday night watching crews battle the blaze. Some of them were inside Sportsmans when word of the fire spread.

“At first we thought it was a kitchen fire,” said Jill Liverca, a Southeast Como resident and Sportsmans regular. “It was confusing and a little hectic inside.”

She said she’s sad for the tenants and landlord and hopes the bar – a tightly knit community hangout – can reopen soon.

Another witness, Steve Kish, made the most of the incident, capturing the fire on a cell phone video and selling it to KSTP-TV for $90, he said.

Radaich chuckled when he heard about the transaction Monday.

“He’s making money,” he said, “off of my misfortune.”