LATEST: Eau Claire bar & grill owner faces reality in the light - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

LATEST: Eau Claire bar & grill owner faces reality in the light of day

Posted:

Altoona (WQOW) - It's been an emotional 24 hours for an Altoona bar owner after watching his tavern burn to the ground.

"I woke up this morning in disbelief still. I could not believe what happened," said Dave Zempel, the owner of Encore Bar and Grill, located on Harlem Street in Altoona.

Zempel said when he evacuated the restaurant Thursday night, because of the smoke, he never expected things to end the way they did. He thought the fire department would come and go, and he'd be able to get back inside to clean up and prepare for their Friday fish fry. But, as time passed, and the fire grew, reality began to sink in.

He said as overwhelming as this experience has been, the community's support has kept him going. "The hundreds of texts and calls and stuff I've gotten over the last -- it really reassures me that everything will be okay,” Zempel said. Fire crews said the cause of the fire is still unknown.

To support the 30 employees of Encore Bar & Grill, the owner of Bug Eyed Betty's is stepping in to help. Bug Eyed Betty's said it is extending the discount it gives its employees to the staff of Encore. The restaurant also started a GoFundMe page to help support the Encore employees.

 "We're all a part of the same community," owner Jordan Hedrington told News 18. "So, it's good when people recognize and lend a helping hand to people that are going to need it." 

It isn't the first time Hedrington has helped other small business owners in the area. He says, for him, it's not about competition, it's about supporting the community.

"Some people say competition, I don't," he said. "I think we're all fighting the same fight and they'd do the same thing if we needed help."

Down the street, the owners of Lynn's Chatterbox Cafe are offering Encore employees, and local police officers and firefighters, 50% off of their meals for the next week. Plus they're looking to hire a couple of servers and a cook and are hoping to help some of the displaced crew get back to work. 

"We're all trying to make a living a take care of our families," owner Lynn Fraser said. "We believe in loving our neighbor as yourself, as well, and taking care of those if we have an opportunity to do so," owner Kenny Fraser told News 18. 

The Taverna Grill and Wagner's Lanes in Eau Claire are also stepping up to help the Encore staff. 

As for Zempel, he's grateful for the support and thankful things weren't any worse. Now he's looking towards the future. "My plan is to get in there as fast as I can, start building and get this place rocking," he said. 

And that's exactly what his faithful customers want to hear. 

"We don't need to have anybody else in here but Dave right here, with a new building," Rory Schutte said. 


Posted on February 17, 2017:

UPDATE: Altoona (WQOW) -- An Eau Claire business is challenging the community to help those now in need, after a fire at Encore Bar and Grill Thursday night.

The Owner of Bug Eyed Betty's posted on its Facebook page in response to seeing the fire at the bar and grill on Harlem Street. The statement said, in part, "Starting today, we will extend the discount we give our own employees to the staff of Encore. You'll receive 25% off your food for you and your guests, all day every day. If you suddenly don't know where your next meal is coming from, please don't hesitate to reach out to us in a private message. We have your back".

Bug Eye Betty's also started a GoFundMe campaign for the owner and employees of Encore.

The owner of Encore, David Zempel, told News 18 construction crews were installing insulation in the attic around 5:30 Thursday evening, and shortly after, he noticed smoke and called 911. He said he then jumped into action to get everyone out of the bar and restaurant safely. Altoona Fire and Rescue told News 18 there were 16 customers and employees inside the bar, and no one was injured.

"You know this place has a long history, in this area, and it has kind of a not-so-great history in a lot of people's eyes," said David Zempel, the owner of Encore. " And I know that the staff that I had here, and I know myself, we were working really hard to make it a much better place." 

At this point it's not clear how the fire started. Crews from Eau Claire and Township Fire assisted Altoona in fighting flames. As of 10:00 p.m. There is also no exact number yet on how much damage was caused, but Altoona Police and Fire Chief, Jesse James said it was serious.

"There is definitely significant damage to the building, a lot of water damage, a lot of fire damage, the roof did collapse, so I would suspect there is going to be a significant loss," said Chief James.

No injuries were reported for the public or those working on scene.

This is a developing story. We will bring you the latest information on-air and online as it becomes available.


Posted Thursday, February 16th

Altoona (WQOW) - Flashing lights and fire hoses filled the parking lot of a local bar and restaurant Thursday as customers and employees were rushed out.

Flames could be seen escaping through the roof of Encore Bar and Grill on Harlem Street. The owner told News 18 construction crews were installing insulation in the attic around 5:30 Thursday evening, and shortly after, he noticed smoke and called 911. He said he then jumped into action to get everyone out of the bar and restaurant safely. 

"You know this place has a long history, in this area, and it has kind of a not-so-great history in a lot of people's eyes," said David Zempel, the owner of Encore. " And I know that the staff that I had here, and I know myself, we were working really hard to make it a much better place." 

Many people remember the building as Whiskey Dick's. Shortly after that business closed in 2014 the building was briefly transformed into a family restaurant. Encore Bar and Grill opened in May of last year. 

At this point it's not clear how the fire started. Crews from Eau Claire, Altoona and Township Fire were fighting flames. As of 10:00 p.m. Thursday night firefighters were still trying to extinguish flames near the rear of the building and were there to make sure the fire didn't spread to any neighboring properties. 

This is a developing story. We will bring you the latest information on-air and online as it becomes available.


Posted Thursday, February 16th

Altoona (WQOW) - Fire crews are at a local bar and grill where flames can be seen coming from the building.

A News 18 reporter on scene says crews for Altoona Fire and Rescue, Township Fire and Eau Claire Fire and Rescue are at Encore Bar and Grill, located on Harlem Street in Altoona. The bar owner told News 18 construction crews were installing insulation around 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. Shortly after, he noticed smoke and called 911. The bar owner said he then got everyone out of the bar and restaurant.

Parts of Harlem Street and Gloede Avenue are closed to traffic at this time. 

This is a developing story. We will bring you the latest information on-air and online as it becomes available.

Powered by Frankly