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December 19, 2008

Fire damages café and shops near Tool Shed

Cleveland--The Tool Shed and Man’s World, two gay bars on the near west side of the city, had a close call Sunday night as a fire in the basement of their building damaged two other storefronts.

Ohio City Café’s dining area was heavily damaged, along with much of a clothing and alterations shop next door to it on West 29th Street.

The Shed, Man’s World, the Dean Rufus House of Fun, other stores and the apartments above them all filled with smoke, but the firefighters kept the blaze from spreading.

The fire was spotted just after 11 pm on December 14, although building and bar owner Richard Husarick believes it might have been smoldering in a basement employee lounge for as much as an hour beforehand.

A homeless man was staying in the room where the fire began.

“We have an employees’ lounge area under the café and the clothing store, a microwave, sofa, television, for them to go down and have lunch, take a break, whatever they need to do,” Husarick said. “I met this kid . . . at my church, he said he was a homeless person and he was looking for some work.”

“I gave him some work around our building, and told him if he didn’t have a place to stay he could stay in our lounge area so he wasn’t out in the cold,” he continued.

The man had been in the basement before the fire started and then left.

“I don’t know if he’s frightened or scared,” Husarick noted. “They’re looking for him right now.”

The water and heat have been restored to the apartments above the damaged shops. Husarick said December 16 that was hoping to have power restored within a day so tenants could return home. He expects insurance would take about a month to pay for repairs, but he has already been in contact with contractors.

In the meantime, the Ohio City Café kitchen is intact, and Husarick hopes to put tables and chairs out on the dance floor of the Shed so that the café can operate out of the bar during the day.

“We’re going to have them open on the Tool Shed side during the day so they can maintain and operate until we can get them back open,” he said. “Beverage Distributors gave us a sign to put out there saying they’re remodeling.”

While smoke from the fire spread throughout the building, the damage was far less severe than it could have been had the blaze not been brought under control so quickly.

At the Dean Rufus House of Fun, where half the stock is clothing, owners Dean Rufus and Tom Bayne said they had smoke damage.

Throughout the ordeal, people gathered at Man’s World waiting for the all-clear.

The area has seen its share of problems in the last year.

Last December, tenant Joey Melaragno was shot in his neighbor’s apartment upstairs during what was believed to be a drug deal gone bad, and in August two men attempted to carjack community activist Jon Brittain a block from the bar, bringing an immediate increase in security.

Husarick mentioned that efforts were under way to get a grant for surveillance cameras in the area to keep an eye on the streets, similar to those in other Cleveland neighborhoods. Business owners have agreed to help cover the difference if the camera systems cost more than the grant provides.






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