Patrons of the West End Bar and Restaurant, which was badly damaged in a fire Tuesday morning, said the tavern was a gathering place for the community.
The fire was reported shortly before 7 a.m. at the West End Bar and Restaurant on Laurel Street. No one was inside the two-story building when the fire started, and crews had the fire under control by 7:30 a.m.
The fire began in a back kitchen but firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading to the main dining room and bar, though smoke damaged that area and left a layer of soot on the floor. Millstadt Fire Chief Kurt Pellmann said a plastic bag full of rags soaked in some sort of cleaning oil might have spontaneously combusted, possibly causing the fire.
The kitchen will need “major rehab” before it’s useable again, Pellmann said.
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Michelle Ward is the sister of the tavern’s owner, Angie Ames. Ames declined to speak with a reporter, but her sister said West End is “a gathering place for everybody.”
“It’s a stronghold of Millstadt,” Ward said. “Everybody came here, families, kids, for benefits, gatherings, fish fry Fridays.”
Alyssa Theis works at West End as a bartender and waitress, and said she lives about a block away. When she heard sirens go by her house, she said she wondered what was happening. She stood outside West End before 8 a.m. in her pajamas, watching firefighters extinguish the last of the flames.
“Everything in there was wood,” Theis said.
Smithton and Columbia fire departments assisted Millstadt Fire Department in putting out the fire.