The exterior of the Pour House Pub and Grub, is deceptively clean. The only indication that something was amiss Thursday was the fluttering yellow “fire line, do not cross” tape and Central Emergency Services truck parked behind the bright blue building in Soldotna.
Inside, owner Molly Poland gingerly picked her way through the wreckage of her barely six-month-old family restaurant.
“I just stood over there and I just bawled,” she said gesturing toward a bank of windows facing the Sterling Highway. “This was, like, my dream and it’s all gone.”
CES firefighters were called to the property at 44686 Sterling Highway at 1:25 a.m., according to a media release.
According to the release, the first unit arrived in 3 minutes and reported smoke showing from the eaves of the restaurant.
Poland said she watched the fire start on her cell phone after fire crews broke down the back door and the alarm company automatically called.
“I had surveillance on my phone, so I looked at my phone and I’m like ‘holy s---, it’s on fire,” Poland said.
The video shows the fire starting in a supply room between the restaurant’s kitchen and dining rooms, which the CES investigation eventually corroborated.
“The investigation is done,” said Brad Nelson, health and safety officer for CES. “We do know that the fire originated right in that storeroom by the refrigerator. One possible explanation could be some rags that fell behind the refrigerator; or it could possibly be a malfunction with the refrigerator.”
Typically, the fire department carries out its investigations to a point but stops short of dismantling appliances to determine the exact cause of a potential malfunction, Nelson said.
Investigators stop because they do not want to interfere with an insurance investigation, he said.
“Obviously on some fires we can pinpoint a cigarette behind a planter box and ‘boom’ we’ve got that nailed, there’s no expertise required,” Nelson said. “Some fires we can say with certainty and others, we have to go to a certain point and stop.”
Investigators did not need to worry about interfering, however, as Poland said her insurance had lapsed.
“So it lapsed on Dec. 20 and I didn’t know. I called them and I begged them and I was crying on the phone and they said ‘nope.’ So nothing’s covered.”
Poland initially told the Clarion that a certified letter she thought was from the insurance company had not been brought to her attention by an assistant. However, she has since discovered that the certified letter was from the state. The letter from the insurance company was located under a stack of other papers.
Early estimates of $25,000 in damage by CES have since been revised upward, Nelson said.
“Once we started to get to digging and saw that ‘OK there’s going to be a lot more ... $25,000 would be very, very low,” he said.
Poland estimates that she spent about $250,000 on the restaurant.
“It’s a loss. It’s a 100 percent loss. We are not opening again,” she said.
As she and a friend, Nita Dreyer, picked through the rubble Thursday afternoon and Poland said she had a crew of employees who would come to the restaurant to begin cleanup.
“We still have some tables and stuff,” she said. “We’ll wash it all down and we’ll just take it to Hooligans I guess.”
Poland’s other business venture, Hooligans Sport Fishing Lodge N’ Saloon, will also see a boost to its menu as a chef, slated to begin work at the Pour House, arrived in town yesterday.
“I flew him in here from Minneapolis,” Poland said. “I just told him ... here’s your choice man, we can do one of two things. We can make a go with the restaurant in Hooligans and we’ll just make it super crazy kick-ass and take stuff from here and put it over there ... or I can fly you home. He said ‘I’m staying.’”
Meanwhile, Poland said she may be able to salvage the restaurant’s unique beer and wine tap tables as well and she looks forward to seeing what will happen next.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason and that there’s bigger and better things to come. I don’t know what they are but ... I’m going to find out real soon. I’m never one to cry over spilled milk — well, just today, a little bit,” she said with a laugh.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.