Dairy Bar razed in morning blaze

Jul. 15, 2014 @ 07:14 PM

A fire destroyed one of the most popular restaurants in Sanford early Tuesday morning. But the owners reportedly hope to reopen — even if it takes months.

The Fairview Dairy Bar, which opened in 1953 and has served generations of customers since then at 109 Carbonton Road, was spotted ablaze at around 3:30 a.m. by a Sanford Police officer on routine patrol in the area, emergency responders said. The restaurant was nearly completely destroyed.

Commander Steve Cox of the Sanford Fire Department said investigators believe the fire began near the front of the restaurant and spread quickly throughout the establishment.

“It had heavy flames out the front,” he said, adding that The Flame Steakhouse, which is next door, also sustained heavy smoke damage, but no fire or heat damage.

The Dairy Bar was owned by Paul and Kathy Freedle for years but recently was bought by Steve Brewer, who also owns The Flame.

Brewer’s wife, Kathy, who also is involved with the restaurants, said The Flame likely will take four to six weeks to clean up and get back in shape to reopen. The Dairy Bar, though, could take much longer.

“It will require almost a total rebuild,” she said. “Six months is what they’re telling us.”

But Brewer said the cost and time won’t stop them from striving to rebuild and reopen the Dairy Bar. The comeback plans aren’t just tentative.

“There are too many people who depend on it for their livelihood,” she said.

On Tuesday morning, someone posted to both restaurants’ Facebook pages and echoed that concern, writing, “There are many families working with our family, and we ask that you keep them in your thoughts.”

Cox said a preliminary investigation showed that the cause of the fire likely was accidental and electrical in nature, although a specific cause has yet to be determined. He said the insurance company plans to send their own investigators out today as well.

The N.C. Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF) also were brought in Tuesday to investigate the possibility of arson, Cox said. However, he added, that’s a standard precaution any time a large amount of money is at stake, and he wasn’t aware of any criminal findings from either group.