VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Fire officials say a fire at a popular sports bar on Shore Drive Thursday night was accidental.
Crews raced to the Reef Lounge just after 8 p.m., according to the Virginia Beach Fire Department. The Reef Lounge is located on Shore Drive near North Great Neck Road in the Chic’s Beach area.
The large fire was deep inside the building and it took firefighters a while to get it under control. A number of ladder trucks and heavy firefighter equipment were at the scene when WAVY.com arrived.
Investigators said there were people inside at the time, but everyone evacuated the business safely.
Penny Valentine has worked at the Reef Lounge for 14 years. She got a call Thursday night about a fire at the restaurant and rushed over.
“This is not your typical bar, restaurant, lounge,” said Valentine. “This is family. Our employees are family. Our customers are family. This just, just devastating.”
Valentine said the lounge opened in the 1960s and has had different owners and different names. But, it’s well known as the Reef.
“It’s just always been the Reef,” said Valentine. “People come back. People come from out of town and they come directly to the Reef, because that’s just the way it is.”
Valentine and other employees have said the damage is bad on the inside, but they don’t know to what extent they will need to re-build. Valentine added, decisions about the future of the Reef will be up to the owner.
The Reef wasn’t the only business affected. A nail salon, M&T Nails, is still closed due to fire damage. The property next door to the Reef, the old A.J. Mongolian BBQ building, was also affected after just being leased by a new tenant on Monday.
“We’re in the process of renovating and getting ready to open up our business,” said Adrian Colaprete, who plans to open a brunch restaurant called Bayked.
Colaprete spent most of Friday working with contractors and city employees to get his power turned back on and get the damage cleaned up. He said his property had a lot of smoke and water damage and some fire damage.
“We’ve all kind of budgeted our time and money and everything in the efforts of opening up in a certain amount of time,” said Colaprete. “And unfortunately, it’s not going to pan out that way.”
Battalion Chief Amy Valdez with the Virginia Beach Fire Department said the fire was ruled accidental. Investigators have not determined a point of origin.