Fire Destroys John A Lau Saloon and Restaurant
Wed, 22 Jul 2020 06:02:11 EDT

The legend of Agnes the ghost, and a collection of Alpena memorabilia all went up in flames Tuesday, as a fire destroyed the John A. Lau Saloon on North Second Avenue (414) in Alpena.

Closed for the past few months due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the popular eatery was scheduled to reopen today (Wednesday) and for the past few weeks, workers had been getting things ready.

Alpena City Fire Chief Bill Forbush explained the first fire unit was on scene at 1:36 p.m. and reported heavy smoke from the rear of the building. Workers were welding and a wooden structure was accidentally ignited. Fire quickly extended through a void space on to the roof and was visible on arrival.

At the height of the fire, high voltage wires in a nearby alley were endangered, so Alpena Power cut off power to a large area to ensure safety on scene and the Second Avenue bridge was closed to traffic. As the fire fight continued, there was a partial collapse of the structure.

While the building is considered a total loss, the Thunder Bay Theatre, which is attached, is intact, with some smoke and water damage. Forbush said there were some people inside the theatre and workers in the restaurant, but they were all quickly evacuated and no injuries reported.

Darlene Ackerman of Virginia, an aunt to restaurant owner Jon Benson, said that she came to Alpena for the reopening as well as Benson's mother's birthday which is Thursday. She said that she was given a tour of the restaurant just a few days before. "Everybody was pretty excited about the reopening," she said.

While the fire continued, emergency service agencies, including ambulance and fire services from Alcona, Montmorency and Presque Isle Counties all provided mutual aid by moving and staging near county lines. That put them closer to respond to any calls if needed in Alpena County, and some did provide medical response to incidents.

Agencies assisting included Alpena and Presque Isle Township and Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center Fire Departments, Alpena City Police, Alpena Sheriff Steve Kieliszewski and Deputies, Salvation Army, Suez Water, along with Wilson Township which manned a response medical unit, and staged ambulance units from Hillman, Rogers City, and Alcona,

While a full investigation has yet to be completed, the blaze is being considered an accidental fire.


PHOTOS: A rear view of a fire at the John A Lau Saloon and Restaurant


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