Keuka Restaurant rebuilding; plans opening in a month

John Christensen
After fire destroyed a storage area at the back of the Keuka Restaurant March 8, workers have been rebuilding the storage and equipment room.

The Penn Yan Fire Dept. was called out to a structure fire at the Keuka Restaurant on Main Street just after 3 a.m. Wednesday, March 8. Owner Josh Trombley says Covert Security Systems detected the fire and alerted him and the fire dept. at 3:05 a.m. At almost the same time, a Penn Yan Police Officer reported the blaze.

The fire was concentrated in a rear storage room facing the Wagener Street municipal parking lot. Fire Chief Mike Clancy says fire fighters responded with E-1, E-2,E-3, L-4, and Rescue 5 trucks; with mutual aid requested from Himrod’s FAST Team, and manpower from Benton and Dundee. A ladder truck from Hammondsport was also requested, but was turned back once the scope of the fire was clear. “We take structure fires in these old downtown buildings very seriously,” says Clancy, who says the fire was under control within half an hour, and completely extinguished by 6:20 a.m.

Penn Yan Police and New York State Police helped evacuate the adjacent Knapp House apartments, and Penn Yan Municipal crews also responded. Residents were allowed to return once the fire was well controlled, though the odor of smoke did infiltrate adjacent buildings with shared walls.

While he has not seen an official report yet, Trombley says police and insurance investigators have told him they believe the fire originated from the compressor for the walk-in cooler. That compressor, plus an ice machine and deep freezer, were also within that store room. While structural damage was contained to the store room, the Keuka suffered extensive smoke and water damage throughout the building. No estimation of the damage and replacement costs is yet available.

Construction crews had the room demolished by Thursday, and were hauling away debris, including lost food stuffs and carpeting. A replacement was framed and sheathed by Monday afternoon. Trombley says all the Keuka’s employees have stayed on the job, helping with the cleanup. After originally estimating two weeks to reopen, he now believes it will be closer to a month for the cleanup and repairs to be completed.

“I want to thank the fire department and all the Penn Yan community for their help. They are amazing, for sure,” says Trombley. “And Tom Fulkrod and Mike Madigan and their crew jumped right on it (the repairs), and are really stepping up, working through the cold,” he adds.

Trombley says that when it reopens, the Keuka will look much as it did, with some reconfiguration at the back. In the meantime, his other restaurant, The Switzerland Inn at Keuka Village, will reopen this Thursday. They will have dinners Thursdays through Saturdays, plus lunches on Saturdays.