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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
July 1, 2005

540 Club, Canton's oldest gay bar, is destroyed in fire

Canton, Ohio--The city�s oldest gay bar was destroyed by fire on June 27.

The 540 Club, located at the corner of Walnut Avenue and Sixth Street NE, had been in its current location since the late 1970s.

James Bartrug, who has owned the bar for nine years, heard a smoke alarm and left his apartment upstairs, returning to get his neighbor out of her first-floor apartment.

�All of a sudden, I heard knocks, and the knocks were so heavy I thought it was the police or something,� Betty Hall told the Canton Repository of her neighbor�s actions.

The bar was comprised of a small 19th century frame building and a newer brick building facing Sixth Street.

When Bartrug announced last call at 2 am on Monday morning, he thought he smelled smoke, but none of the bar patrons noticed anything at the time. Less than four hours later, fire trucks arrived and the bar was gone.

Bartrug believes that the building will have to be torn down, and investigators are looking into the cause of the blaze, standard procedure in such incidents.

Some of Bartrug�s belongings were saved, including a small safe.

The fire jumped from the building housing the 540 Club to the duplex where Hall lived, burning a corner and destroying a chimney. The roof of the club fell onto the second floor, where Bartrug lived in one apartment while two other rooms were used as storage space.

Bartrug does not yet know whether he will be able to reopen the bar in a new location.

 

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