The Red Bar in Grayton Beach Destroyed by Fire
March 8, 2019 by Teresa Lischka
Our beloved Red Bar was destroyed in an early morning fire on February 13, 2019. A plan is underway to rebuild - check for updates on SoWal.com and on the Red Bar Facebook page. The news has been heartbreaking for so many people. The response has been overwhelming by those who have experienced many life memories here over the years. We feel a bond. Ownership. Grief. Because of a place where we have gathered with friends and family many times over many years.
Update 3/8/19, by Kurt Lischka
At the Red Bar site yesterday, owner Oli Petiti said the people who work at the Red Bar are the reason people love the Red Bar so much. Everything else - the location, the character of the old building, the tons of memorabilia, and the music are great, but the people who work there love coming to work and love each other, and it shows. The flood of love from the community toward him and the staff has been amazing and the rebuild is underway.
As he struggled to contain his emotions, he looked at the twisted, charred pile of rubble and said, "from the ashes the new Red Bar will rise." Oli has always been a positive, optimistic, and energetic man. He's been cooking and entertaining in Grayton Beach for decades and he's not about to stop.
About ten years ago Oli thought he might have to move from the location. He loved the old building and layout so much that if he had to move he wanted to recreate it, and he had blueprints created from meticulous measurements of every floor, wall, window and door. So as soon as the site is cleared, any day now, the rebuild can begin. He's got a builder who says it can be done in about 6 months. That would be amazing and would mean an opening celebration toast before year's end.
"I'm overwhelmed. It's been a tough time but people have been amazing." said Oli. "The neighbors, the county, my family, the staff, everyone has been amazing. What a great place this is."
A week ago, a group of volunteers came together at the site to dig through the remnants and salvage a few mementos and some parts and pieces that will go into the new building. Oli's dad Louis, owner of Louis Louis Restaurant on Hwy 98, has always enjoyed collecting at antique shops, salvage stores, and junk shops. He's kicked it in to overdrive looking for new fun and funky decor. Red Bar employee and artist Brian Hand is chomping at the bit to paint a new door and other Red Bar art.
Update 3/6/18, by Kurt Lischka
If you are in downtown Grayton for a bit, you'll see an amazing stream of cars, bike riders, and walkers who stop and take a photo of the remains of the Red Bar, some standing quietly for awhile reminiscing until someone else comes up and the sharing of stories begins. You'll also see some tears. Road work on Hotz Avenue in front of the Red Bar had already begun before the fire. The work to create a new drainage system adds to the surreal feeling in Grayton Beach.
Update 2/13/19, by Kurt Lischka
Devastating. Words fail but photos don't.
2/14/19, by Teresa Lischka
We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from our community of Red Bar lovers far and wide. Management has set up an official page for donations of funds to benefit loyal employees.
Statement from owner Oli Petit:
“On behalf of my family and the staff of The Red Bar, I want to thank the community for the tremendous outpouring of support that we have already received. It means a lot to me that we live in a county where our leaders recognize the importance of our shared history, and the efforts so many of us make to shape our community in a positive and unique way.
“I want to tell our patrons and my staff that we will be back, and we will rebuild to the exact previous specifications – maybe with a better bathroom. Life goes on.”
Some say it can't be replicated. It will never be the same. Well I am grateful that no one was hurt. That we had this place for so long. That it was cherished by so many people. That it holds so many memories and dreams. I don't know what a new Red Bar will be like. We will see sooner rather than later. It will be a work of art for sure. It will honor our memories and capture our hearts with great food, music, drinks, fun and funk.
Meanwhile. We have stories to tell and photos to share. They are everywhere online as Red Bar lovers express their support for this unique little bar in our historic beach town. Let's share them here and in the SoWal Community Forum where we have always told our stories.