Nearly a month after a massive September 25 fire destroyed seven historic buildings in downtown Georgetown, investigators still have not released a cause.
The State Law Enforcement Division collected evidence from the scene in the week following the fire, but details remain scarce. Georgetown Police Captain Nelson Brown said he expects the report to be finished by next month.”It’s still under investigation and we’re waiting on the SLED report, which is probably three weeks out,” Capt. Brown told South Carolina Radio Network. “When we get that report, we’ll present the findings.”
However, a SLED spokesman could not confirm the timeline, citing the nature of the investigation. “All I can say is that the investigation is ongoing,” spokesman Thom Berry replied in an email.
The scope and nature of the fire may be hindering investigators. Most witnesses accounts agree the fire began at the Limpin’ Jane’s restaurant on Front Street, either in the building’s second floor or on its back deck. However, much of the deck collapsed into the Sampit River. Rubble still remains across much of the site and will likely stay there for some time.
Meanwhile, the owners of a nearby restaurant destroyed in last month’s blaze plan to open at a new location on Friday. The Seven Hundred Modern Grille & Bar opened briefly for a day during the Georgetown Wooden Boat Show earlier this month, owner Peter Scalise said. But the former owner of the sushi and pizza restaurant Zest said he anticipated opening permanently at the end of this week. Zest was one of eight businesses destroyed in the fire.
The grille will be the first to re-open in a new location since the fire. Five more hope to open in early November, according to the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce. Scalise said one reason for the relatively quick turnaround was that he and his co-owner signed a lease within a day of the September 25 fire.
“We struck a lease that day based on just knowing that we weren’t going to be able to go back anytime soon, he told South Carolina Radio Network. “We looked at (the old) building, knowing that it’s a historical building and going to take some time to rebuild. So we decided just to move on.”
The new restaurant is located two blocks down Front Street from Zest’s old spot. Scalise said the new name is meant as a tribute to the 700 block of Front Street destroyed by the fire.
Scalise and his business partners paid for the new location largely through their own capital and through donations. “That’s what’s been beautiful,” Scalise said. “Being a small town, all of these guys ate at our restaurant every day, anyway. A couple of different companies have offered their services, knowing that payment will come once we get insurance. A lot of people have been very patient with us on that.” He said they are still awaiting an insurace payout on their previous location.
Fundraising efforts re continuing to help victims, some of whom lost their apartment homes in the fire. An online donating site, http://georgetownfirerelief.com, was created in addition to the Front Street Fire Relief Fund at any First Citizens Bank in South Carolina. In all, nearly $130,000 has been raised and disbursed so far, Chamber of Commerce spokesman Brian Tucker says.