Summer is the biggest season for restaurants on Hilton Head Island, but one popular eatery won’t be opening its doors anytime soon after being destroyed in a weekend fire.
That’s what the owner of The Smokehouse called yesterday’s fire which ripped through his business.
One day later the shock was still setting in, and his restaurant destroyed.
A passerby noticed those flames about 6 AM Sunday and called for help.
Fire officials battled that blaze for more than 3 hours. pumping water into various areas – and fighting much of the fire from the inside out.
Monday, it was about clean up and looking ahead.
The boards were put in place to keep people out, as employees tried to salvage what they could.
The evidence of the fire was easy to see. A charred electrical panel, a roof pushed down by the weight of an air conditioning and heating unit that fell into the structure.
Debris, soot and leftover wood littered on the ground.
Owner Jerry Leonard was surrounded by friends and employees all day, not just working but remembering the good times they had.
Leonard told News 3 off camera that while he appreciated all the condolences and memories, he is more concerned about his longtime customers.
The ones who came every day to eat and drink and his current employees who can’t come back to work tomorrow, this summer, or probably for a very long time. He calls them all an extended family, and he feels worse for their loss than his own.
The insurance adjuster is expected to come on Tuesday. Then Jerry can start thinking about what’s next.
He owns the entire property, 1.6 acres, and vows to rebuild or restart and make The Smokehouse better than ever for the Island.
Hilton Head Fire inspectors are still trying to figure out what caused the blaze.
They are looking at whether it could be an electrical fire or one caused by a lightning strike.
They have already received the lightning data coordinates and are having them put on the map to take a look.
In the meantime several local restaurants have reached out, including Reilly’s, to say they would hire Smokehouse employees until they could eventually return home to the restaurant someday.