The Red Bar in Grayton Beach Destroyed by Fire [Updates]
January 26, 2020 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 2/11/20, by Kurt Lischka
Siding install is almost finished and the front porches are getting built out. The west side deck looks like it will be covered which will be very welcome in the hot afternoon summer sun.
See more photos, including interiors >
Update 1/25/20, by Kurt Lischka
Fast progress! We have windows! While the rebuild of the Red Bar is true to the old building layout, it is apparent that the new Red Bar will be "new & improved" in many ways. Not the least of which will be modern bathrooms, as well as top-notch kitchen and serving spaces, integrated gift shop,and higher ceilings. But rest assured it will still be the heart of SoWal with fun and funk.
The main dining room looking toward the stage.
Update 1/4/20, by Kurt Lischka
The walls are up and the trusses installed! A lot of excitement in Grayton Beach with anticipation of the return of The Red Bar. On a down note, oli hung 5 Red Bar banners on the fence around the construction and the next morning only one was left. If you see any banners hanging on someone's wall, call the law.
See more photos, including aerials >
Update 12/20/19, by Kurt Lischka
A lot of people have asked how progress has been going. There was a lot of site work going on underground so for quite awhile progress wasn't very noticeable on the webcam. But now the foundation is nearing completion and The Red Bar rebuild will be going vertical soon!
Update 10/8/19, by Kurt Lischka
The groundbreaking ceremony this morning was sweet with lots of love & hugs among friends, neighbors, family and even a couple of politicians! See photos >
The building plans are nearly an exact copy of the old building. Owner Oli Petit has been diligent about reproducing the original charm of the old space which began as Grayton General store back before prohibition. He does the interior decorating himself (see photo gallery of the old interior) so expect to see a ton of memorabilia like before. His dad Louis (Louis Louis Restaurant) loves to scavenge and has been traveling far and wide to antique, junk, back yards, and thrift stores looking for items. They already had a warehouse full and by the time the new building is ready, so they will be also. Ready to cover every inch of the interior with stuff, and local artist and Red Bar employee Brian Hand is already at work recreating pieces he had in the old place and creating new ones - including painting the front door and porch. Oli hopes to be open by Memorial Day Weekend in 2020.
Update 10/2/19, by Kurt Lischka
It's been a long road with a lot of planning, roadblocks overcome, and negotiations, but contracts are finally signed and the rebuild officially begins with a ceremony on October 10th, 2019!
Tune in and watch live on our Red Bar Webcam >
Update 7/4/19, by Kurt Lischka
Oli said he hopes construction will begin by the end of July. He and the Red Bar crew were on the sidewalk in their usual place on the 4th of July offering donuts and drinks to locals and visitors.
Update 4/5/19, by Kurt Lischka
The site has been cleared in preparation for construction.
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.