Cafe fire deals $200,000 in damage


POSTED: Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The I Love Country Cafe next to Ala Moana Center will be closed for three months after a fire caused $200,000 in damage to the kitchen, owner Richard Chan said.

The Honolulu Fire Department said food left cooking on lit burners started the fire that was reported at 2:08 a.m. yesterday.

Chan said a pot of turkey stock was left to cool overnight on a back burner. Managers checked that the stove was off before leaving, and a maintenance man was there for four hours until 1 a.m. and did not smell anything, Chan said.

“;If something's boiling, you can smell it. I cannot tell what happened, but accidents do happen — maybe somebody knocked the knob”; and turned the stove on, he said.

When Chan arrived at his burning restaurant, he was relieved that firefighters had kept the blaze from spreading beyond the kitchen.

“;Nobody get hurt; nobody burn finger — that's what's important. In this economy it's hard to bear (the loss of business), but money you can make; life is more precious. And business is not that busy now,”; he said.

He and his wife, Millie Chan, also own the I Love Country Cafe at the Pearl Harbor Navy Exchange, and Chinatown Express in the Ala Moana Center Food Court and on Maunakea Street. The Piikoi Street restaurant employs 15 longtime workers, and all intend to return, he said.

Thirty-five firefighters extinguished the fire by 3:02 a.m.

The adjacent Payless Shoe Source store, which shares a ventilation system with the restaurant, was filled with smoke but was able to open at 9:30 a.m. as usual, an employee said.