Fire hits McGarvey's shortly after New Year's fete

January 02, 1994|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

Hours after the black-tie New Year's Eve party at McGarvey's Saloon in Annapolis, a three-alarm fire struck the downtown landmark. Only one section of the business was damaged, and there were no injuries.

"This is certainly not a way to start the New Year's," Jim Fishback, manager of the bar-restaurant near City Dock, said yesterday morning after he inspected the building with firefighters. He called the damage "very minimal".

The undamaged section of the bar that houses the saloon opened for business at 6 p.m. last night. The portion of the building used as a raw bar will reopen in about two weeks, the manager said.

Annapolis Fire Capt. Leonard Clark said the fire that was reported about 9:30 a.m. was restricted to the wood-frame building that houses the raw bar. It appeared that the fire began in a wall and spread to the attic.

Smoke drifted out over City Dock toward the Eastport Bridge as the firefighters arrived, Captain Clark said.

After the third alarm at 10:14 a.m., about 40 firefighters and 12 trucks and ambulances from Annapolis, Anne Arundel County and the Naval Academy fire departments had converged on Market Space, a cluster of restaurants and shops near the waterfront. The fire was declared under control at 10:45 a.m.

Captain Clark said that it was not clear yet what caused the fire, butemployees said it appeared to be an electrical problem because it started in a wall that encloses a lot of wires. Neither Captain Clark nor owner Mike Ashford could estimate a dollar amount for the damage.

Assistant manager Patrick Bellotte said he and about 14 other employees were in the bar shortly after 9 a.m., "taking down Christmas decorations and getting ready to open at 11:30," when a waiter spotted smoke drifting out of a wall vent on the second floor of the old section.

He said he grabbed a fire extinguisher and starting spraying into the vent, but smoke kept pouring out. Employees pulled open the attic hatch and saw flames.

Mr. Bellotte said he told one of the workers to call the fire department while others shut off the gas and electricity. Then everyone left the bar, he said.

The wooden building that houses the raw bar is attached to the brick saloon section by a passageway. It was built as a warehouse in 1812 and had fallen into disrepair, but Mr. Ashford had it rebuilt in 1978 and 1979. It was opened in 1980 as part of McGarvey's, which has been in business since 1975.

Mr. Ashford said the brick building that houses the saloon has been operated as a tavern continuously since 1871.

The bar was full on New Year's Eve for a black-tie party that went until closing time at 2 a.m. "Everybody was in there in their tuxedos," Mr. Ashford said. "A little like the Titanic if you think about it."

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