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Unattended food on stove ignited fire at historic Savoy Grill

The fire erupted inside the restaurant’s basement kitchen late Thursday afternoon. Thick, heavy smoke billowed from the basement and quickly reached the upper floors of the century-old structure at 219 W. Ninth St.
The fire erupted inside the restaurant’s basement kitchen late Thursday afternoon. Thick, heavy smoke billowed from the basement and quickly reached the upper floors of the century-old structure at 219 W. Ninth St. The Kansas City Star

Food left unattended on the stove caused a fire that spread severe smoke damage throughout the historic Savoy Hotel and Grill, fire officials said Friday.

The fire erupted inside the restaurant’s basement kitchen late Thursday afternoon. Thick, heavy smoke billowed from the basement and quickly reached the upper floors of the century-old structure at 219 W. Ninth St.

No injuries were reported. No damage estimates had been made Friday, said Kansas City Battalion Chief James Garrett.

“There is extensive smoke damage everywhere,” Garrett said. “We know it started in the kitchen and how it started.”

Several rooms on the upper floors were rented, but no one was inside when the fire started.

The Louisville, Ky., company planning to buy and renovate the hotel and restaurant, 21c Museum Hotels, said Friday it was still gathering information on the damage but didn’t expect it to affect its plans.

Stephanie Greene, spokeswoman for 21c, said the company’s architects and engineers would visit the site and assess the damage. The company hopes to close in December on the purchase from an affiliate of restaurateur Don Lee, who bought the hotel in 1965.

21c has been planning a $47.5 million makeover of the Savoy Hotel and Grill, including the original 1888 structure and the 1903 addition housing the restaurant. The redevelopment plan calls for restoring the Savoy Grill and renovating the six-story hotel as a 120-room luxury property, along with adding 21c’s signature contemporary art exhibits.

21c Museum Hotels was founded by art collectors and preservationists Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson. They opened their first hotel in 2006 in downtown Louisville and since have renovated a hotel in Cincinnati and built one in Bentonville, Ark. Hotel construction is underway in Durham, N.C., and planned in Lexington, Ky. Projects like the Savoy also are in development in Oklahoma City and Nashville.

To reach Greg Hack, call 816-234-4439 or send email to ghack@kcstar.com.

To reach Glenn E. Rice, call 816-234-4341 or send email to grice@kcstar.com.

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