Businesses already begin to regroup |

Businesses already begin to regroup

Eileen JoyceA firefighter walks along Pine Street in front of the burned-out remains of Friar Tuck's and the Herb Shop around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

As the fire continued to smolder Wednesday at the corner of Commercial and North Pine streets in Nevada City, people tried to fathom what was next.

“All these people who are out of work,” said Peter Selaya, owner of the New Moon Cafe on upper Commercial Street, as he watched firefighters near his restaurant. “That’s what I’ve been thinking all day.”

The fire damage, estimated at $3 million, could affect as many as 100 people, said Charlie Jakobs, fire captain specialist with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Among those affected are county workers who occupied the second floor of the building; employees of Friar Tuck’s Restaurant & Bar, the Herb Shop and Herb Shop Record Store on the first floor; and actors and staff at Off Broadstreet, a cabaret theater on Commercial Street.

The 38 employees from the county Probation Department and the Victim/Witness Assistance Center will work out of temporary offices at the Nevada County Courthouse and the Nevada City Veterans Memorial Building, said Dennis Cassella, the county’s director of general and emergency services. Probation Department officials said they may also use space at Rood Administrative Center. Realtors have already contacted him to offer permanent space, said Cassella.

Nevada City officials said they could not estimate the loss in sales tax to the city, which receives 1 percent of all sales tax within the city limits. But several people at the scene expected major losses.

The economic impact will be huge, City Councilman Steve Cottrell said, referring to the job and sales tax losses. The town’s population is only 3,000, he added.

City officials, all of whom praised firefighters’ quick response, said the most important thing was that no one was injured. They were also relieved that the fire had occurred on a calm day and not spread to nearby buildings.

The city will try to expedite the rebuilding process, City Manager Beryl Robinson said.

Friar Tuck’s employs 35 people and grosses $1 million a year, Joe Greenstreet, the restaurant’s accountant, said as he and owners Greg and Rona Cook watched firefighters putting out hot spots from nearby Broad Street.

The restaurant was a social hub, Greenstreet and others said. “It’s sad,” he said.

Cottrell felt particularly empathy for the Cooks. When he lost his apartment to a fire in 1982, the Cooks were among those who offered help, he recalled.

Greg Cook said he wants to go back in business as quickly as possible.

“We’re going to have it rebuilt in four months,” he vowed.

Off Broadstreet owners Jan Kopp and John Driscoll watched in shock as props, chairs, lighting and sound equipment were laid nearby.

The company’s current production, “Angry Housewives,” runs until the end of April. Tickets estimated at $20,000 are sold for performances over the next two months, Driscoll said. “It’s financially devastating.”

The theater, which they rent, is a special place, he and his wife said.

“It’s just a sweet, little, warm cabaret theater,” Driscoll said.

In spite of it all, both said they felt lucky.

The owner of the Grandmere’s Inn bed-and-breakfast on upper Broad Street has offered the use of a garage, Driscoll said. Theater friends, acquaintances and total strangers – perhaps as many as 100 people – stopped by to help and show support all day long, Driscoll said.

Mayor Kerry Arnett praised the businesses that spontaneously donated food to emergency workers.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less from Nevada City, but it’s rewarding when you see it,” said Arnett, who at one point walked around with a disco ball found near the burning building, trying to find its rightful owner. Arnett said he wanted to remain available as long as the fire was not completely out.

Councilman Pat Dyer, co-owner of the Utopian Stone jewelry store on Broad Street, said he decided to close his shop Wednesday in part because he did not want his employees to breathe the smoke. He did not mind losing a day’s worth of business, he said.

“I’m just glad that the building is still there,” Dyer said. “I feel very lucky.”

David Vertin, president of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and president of the Nevada City Carriage Co., said he will go before the City Council Monday to request that reconstruction of the building be expedited.

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