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Owner of destroyed bar near DL speaks out

Fire destroyed The County 17 Bar & Grill just off Highway 59 south near Lake Melissa over the weekend.

Owner Joy McNamara said she got the call from her bartender around 2 p.m. Sunday that her bar and grill was on fire, and after calling 9-1-1, McNamara says she hurried to get to her business.


“I didn’t even see any smoke at first, so I ran right into the bar,” said McNamara, who grabbed the checkbooks and a pull tab cash box before hearing the glass of the backdoor break.

“I didn’t grab anything else because I thought the fire department would be there any minute and would put the fire out — it was just in the back entryway there,” said McNamara, who says to her it seemed like 45 minutes passed before the fire crews arrived.

“And by that time it had jumped up into the ceiling and roof,” she said, adding that she understands why it took so long for crews to arrive.

“It’s a volunteer fire department, and it was a Sunday,” she said.

Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Scott Flynn said the one employee and two patrons inside at the time escaped unharmed, but by the time fire crews arrived, the flames had already taken over.

“When we got there, the back side of the building was on fire, and it was burning on the inside, too,” said Flynn. “We tried to make an interior attack, but it was a short one because the roof starting coming down, so we pulled everyone out of there and went to an exterior attack.

Flynn says it took about an hour and half for the 35-40 fire fighters on the scene to extinguish the flames.

Audubon and Vergas fire crews assisted the Detroit Lakes Fire Department.

Because the building had been added onto several times, Flynn says they couldn’t tell how extensive the damage was until they were able to go in.

“Everything in there was destroyed,” said Flynn, who said as of Tuesday afternoon they did not have an exact cause.

“We’re still waiting for the (state) fire marshal,” he said.

An art gallery owned by local artist Patty Kobetsky was located inside the building as well, which was a complete loss.

McNamara says she feels bad now, believing they could have saved some of Kobetsky’s art pieces if they had tried.

“But it’s like I was just frozen standing there — like I couldn’t move,” said McNamara. “I guess a person could do a thousand ‘ifs’… but it’s gone.”

The County 17 Bar & Grill had been there for 23 years, but the building itself had been there even longer — since 1909.

“I remember going there when it was called The Treehouse back in the 80s,” said Mary Schnoor, who lives a block away from the bar and grill.

She was one of the first people on the scene Sunday, even before the fire crews.

“I saw smoke, but at first I just thought someone was burning leaves,” she said. “But then I saw flames, so I hurried and ran down there.” Schnoor says the local bar & grill was a place where everybody knew everybody.

“It’s terrible; there were a lot of good memories there,” she said. “It’s a shame that it’s gone.

Flynn says the fire remains under investigation and is unsure how long it will take for the state fire marshal to complete his report.

Meanwhile, McNamara says she’s feeling helpless this week, waiting for insurance adjusters and answers.

Once she gets them, she’ll have a better idea as to whether or not she’ll be able to afford to rebuild and bring back a new version of the County 17 Bar & Grill.

McNamara says she has a lot of family and friends helping her through this “whirlwind,” and has even heard from a lot of regular customers.

“Some down in Florida and Texas, who have already gone south for the winter,” said McNamara. “I’d like to rebuild… I really hope I can.”