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This is the kitchen area between the Velvet Antler Restaurant and Whitetail Tavern where Tuesday night's fire is believed to have started. The establishment had closed an hour earlier, so no one was in the building at the time. Numerous motorists called 911 to report the blaze. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Tuesday fire damages Highway 34 restaurant

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Thirty firefighters and ten trucks from Nevis, Akeley and Park Rapids fought a blaze that gutted much of the Whitetail Tavern and Velvet Antler Restaurant/ lounge on Highway 34 late Tuesday night.

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Nevis Fire Chief Kerry Swenson said the efforts saved the building from total loss.

The fire is believed to have started in the kitchen area around 10 p.m. The lounge had closed about an hour before, Swenson said.

The kitchen area is between the two adjoined structures, Swenson said.

"They are investigating it," Swenson said of the state fire marshal's office and Hubbard County Sheriff's Department. "I guess at this point it doesn't appear to be suspicious. It's just a matter of figuring out what actually caused it.

"It was a pretty good fire but with the assistance of those guys we were able to get it knocked down and salvaged a lot of the building, which, when we first pulled up, we weren't so sure we were gonna be able to do, Swenson said.

The Sheriff's Department said numerous 911 calls came in shortly after 10 p.m. from passing motorists on the highway.

"It's all logs," Swenson said of the structure, two separate buildings adjoined by a connecting one-story addition between the two.

"It was a tough fire but like I said, we were quite impressed with ourselves," Swenson said. "I can't thank Akeley and Park Rapids enough because I think we were able to save the restaurant. It's certainly going to need a lot of cleaning and a lot of work but I think the restaurant is a salvageable building and I think the bar will be able to be saved also."

He said the state fire marshal inspected the building and will be back after the holidays.

"They have to lift the roof off the kitchen and I don't believe they're going to plan to come back until after Christmas," Swenson said. "If they could make sooner arrangements they were going to call me. But right now as far as I know they're coming back after Christmas. Because they have to do it in conjunction with the insurance adjuster."

He said the building was fully insured.

Owner Amie Cannon said Thursday she wasn't sure of the future and reopening.

"We don't know yet," she said. "We're just waiting for the insurance company. There's nothing that we can do. We pretty much can't even go in there until the fire marshal's done.

"As far as rebuilding, if the insurance company wants us to rebuild that's what we'll do. It completely depends on what the insurance company says," she indicated.

But the fire could not have come at a worse time for the business. Cannon has spent the days since the fire notifying groups that had planned Christmas parties for this weekend.

"We already had about 50 reservations for New Year's Eve," she said. "It is two weeks away so they'll find a new place to eat but it's a fun time for the restaurant, festive.

"Everybody's been so nice but there really isn't anything we can do right now," she said, planning for a holiday time off she thought she'd be working through.

"Things finally went our way for once in a fire," Swenson said. "There was no real wind to affect the fire and we were able to get it under control and we're finally able to chalk up a save after a long time."

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