Gunther’s Tap Room will be rebuilt and restored exactly as it was before a fire gutted the Northport bar and favorite haunt of Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac, co-owner Brad Vassallo said Wednesday.
“We’ve obviously got to figure out the insurance stuff,” Vassallo said. “Our whole goal is to try to rebuild it exactly as it was.”
The fire broke out early Tuesday morning, destroying the interior of Gunther’s and damaging apartments in the building. Gunther’s and the apartments were condemned, as were Clipper Ship Tea Co. and 7T8 European Fusion Restaurant, also in the same building, due to water damage caused when a pipe burst during the fire.
Northport Police said the Suffolk County Arson Squad found nothing suspicious in the fire and the investigation has been handed off to Northport’s fire marshal and building inspector. Police Chief Bill Ricca said Wednesday that no new information on the cause of the fire had emerged.
Vassallo and co-owner Eddie McGrath bought Gunther’s last year after its previous owner, Pete H. Gunther, died in April 2016. They had pledged to keep the iconic bar — affectionately dubbed “Club G” by regulars — unchanged.
“Me and Eddie are a little shellshocked,” Vassallo said. “We’ve only had it for about a year. It’s pretty devastating.”
While Vassallo and McGrath own the business, they rent the bar’s space from building owner Frank Cavagnaro, who said Wednesday he will support their efforts to rebuild “because it’s been there so long.”
He said details — including what would be covered between his and the bar owners’ insurance policies — still need to be sorted out before he can speculate on how soon the bar could reopen.
Village officials said Tuesday that they will help Vassallo and McGrath to make sure they get the permits they need for the extensive work ahead.
“The village will do whatever it can to expedite and help move things along,” Village Trustee Ian Milligan said Tuesday. “But we have a responsibility now . . . that the building is at least a 50 percent loss; everything has to be brought up to code.”
Vassallo said that one piece of good news was that the actual bar inside Gunther’s was still intact — beer was still flowing from the taps after the fire. He said that gives him hope that regulars will eventually be able to return and sidle up to the familiar old bar where Kerouac once drank.
“The bar itself, there’s some fire damage, but I think what we’re going to try to do is sand it down,” he said. “Even though there’s some char marks, we’ll try to put poly [protective coating] down and have a little more character. As long as the bottles stay flat, we’ll keep the bar and build around that.”
In the meantime, the Northport community has rallied around Gunther’s and others displaced by the fire.
Overnight, a box of chalk appeared outside the boarded-up building, and people used it to scrawl words of support and grief over the fire on the sidewalk.
“Rebuild (please) Club G;” “Thanks for the memories;” and “Never forget the night I don’t remember @ Club G” were among the messages left anonymously when Vassallo returned to begin cleanup the day after the fire. Vassallo said he and McGrath appreciate the support they have received.
“The people who have been coming out, it’s been great,” he said. “People I haven’t met before, people I have met, introducing themselves and saying, ‘Anything we can do to help.’ It’s been remarkable.” The community has started coming together to help residents of the apartments in the building who were displaced by fire and smoke damage.
Darin Parker, the owner of Main Street Café in Northport, is leading an effort that raised $8,700 overnight for the now homeless residents.
Main Street Café will continue to collect donations for those residents through the weekend.