A month after a kitchen fire forced an evacuation at Charlie Hooper’s Brookside Bar & Grille, the restaurant is still closed.
The Brookside mainstay, at 12 W. 63rd St., evacuated about 20 customers, as well as some employees, when smoked filled the restaurant at 8:45 p.m. on June 16 — Father’s Day. The fire was quickly extinguished by the fire department and no one was hurt.
At the time, the owners said it “could be three or four days, or three or four weeks” before they could reopen.
They’re still waiting.
“Insurance companies are fighting over who has to pay. It has delayed everything,” said Chris Lewellen, owner of Charlie Hooper’s with his brother, Andy. “The ironic thing about it is, if I didn’t have insurance I could have been in there and renovated the kitchen by now.”
Lewellen said five different insurance companies are involved — his, the landlord’s, the company that made the kitchen equipment, the company that services the equipment and the company that cleaned the hood in June.
The good news: the insurance companies completed their investigation of the kitchen and released it to the Lewellens on Tuesday. The brothers hope to finish the renovation and reopen Charlie Hooper’s in early August.
“We’ve never had a fire before and it wasn’t really that bad of a fire. I just didn’t realize all the delays,” Lewellen said. “The good thing is no one got hurt. And we aren’t to blame. But all the while the claim keeps getting bigger because I have business interruption insurance.”
Meanwhile, they have transformed their private event space in Waldo’s The Well Bar Grill Rooftop into “Hooper’s South,” featuring hot dog and beer specials on Saturday afternoons by Charlie Hooper’s kitchen staff, servers and bartenders.
“The scary part of a restaurant not being open is ‘where are your customers going?’” Lewellen said. “But I think the neighborhood really owns that business so they will come back even more so.”