American Visionary Art Museum, restaurant disrupted by kitchen fire No injures are reported

dining room reopens today

September 11, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A fire forced the evacuation of the American Visionary Art Museum yesterday afternoon and shut down a trendy restaurant known for its unusual style of Southwestern and Pacific Rim cuisine.

The Federal Hill museum and its exhibit, "Love: Error and Eros," reopened about an hour after the 2: 30 p.m. fire, but the Joy America Cafe, on the third floor of the museum, would not be serving its chicken breast encrusted with Peruvian purple potatoes until lunchtime today.

No injuries were reported, but about 25 customers were escorted out of the third-floor, smoke-filled dining room by security guards. An unknown number of museum-goers were forced to leave.

The restaurant had to cancel a scheduled dinner for 100 people attending the Natural Products Expo at the downtown convention center. The restaurant features organically grown and nongenetically engineered food; yesterday was designated Organic Day.

Joy America's general manager, Ken Lurie, said he would open Sunday, when the restaurant is usually closed, to accommodate the Expo patrons.

Lurie said his chefs were doing preparatory work for dinner spe- cials when the fire broke out. Water and chemical damage from firefighting efforts ruined the food, he said.

"We had to throw it all out and start over," Lurie said, adding that some of the more hard-to-get items, such as the Peruvian purple potatoes, were in a refrigerator and can still be served.

Fire Inspector Michael Maybin, a department spokesman, said a cause has not been discovered. But he confirmed that the fire started in the ductwork above a wood grill and most likely was caused by grease.

Maybin said damage was estimated at $10,000 to contents and $1,000 to the building. It took firefighters about 10 minutes to extinguish the fire.

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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