NEW WATERFORD — A fire that destroyed JT’s Pub and Steakroom on Plummer Avenue has been deemed suspicious.
Const. Jim Taylor of the Cape Breton Regional Police Service said neighbours reported there was an alarm, followed by an explosion and a “ball of fire” at the building early Tuesday morning.
Taylor, who is also fire chief of the Glace Bay fire department, said the force of the blast caused an air conditioner to blow off the wall in the apartment building next door.
“Based on the information received, the fire does not appear to have started from natural causes,” he said.
The fire broke out in the two-storey building, which included a pub and steakhouse on the main floor and the Room with a Cue pool room on the second floor, at about 2:30 a.m.
Owner Joey Williams said he feels bad for his 12-14 employees.
“The girls in the kitchen — Michelle and Anne Marie — were great,” he said.
“All I am worried about now is the downtime. I want to rebuild. It is a family business. We will want to put the business back up.”
Lenny Barrington, chief of the New Waterford Volunteer Fire Department, said the building was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived.
“It was coming out the windows and the roof,” he said.
“It blew the side windows right out of the building.”
Members of the Scotchtown and Glace Bay fire departments were also on the scene.
The fire threatened the apartment building next door and 10 tenants were evacuated.
Jason Noseworthy of the Canadian Red Cross confirmed their workers transported 10 tenants to Sydney and provided lodging and food.
Taylor said all of the buildings are insured.
Plummer Avenue was cordoned off for two blocks while firefighters battled the blaze.
Marion Rice said she was awakened by the fire Tuesday morning and could smell the smoke from her apartment.
“I heard sirens and walked up as far as the corner of Plummer Avenue — it was all ablaze.”
A large crowd gathered to watch as the remains of the building were demolished Tuesday afternoon.
Late Tuesday afternoon Williams was on the phone with volunteers with Combined Christmas Giving, which planned to hold its annual telethon at JT’s on Dec. 1.
“I am helping to find a new venue,” said Williams, who started the telethon 17 years ago with Paul Pembroke.
“Every year they raised upwards of $40,000 and they need this money. That is my first concern.”