Firefighters respond to a fire in the kitchen of Cena restaurant near the Dayton Mall Saturday, Dec. 26. Customers and employees at adjacent businesses were evacuated during the fire.
Photo: Jan Underwood
Photo: Jan Underwood

5 of the most shocking restaurant fires in recent Dayton-area history 

The best restaurants are more than just places to grab a bite. 

They are part of the fabric of the community. 

>> 11 historic fires that lit up the region and captured the nation’s attention

It is no wonder that when one burns, we take it personally.  

The Dayton area has had more than its fair share of restaurant fires over the years, big and small. 

On Tuesday evening, a historic restaurant and inn famous in its community, and as a romantic dining spot worth the drive, caught fire. 

Below are five of the most shocking restaurant fires in recent history and what has happened to each. 

>> RELATED:  The Inn at Versailles forced to write new chapter in its storied history after fire

1) PEERLESS MILL

A Miamisburg fireman is on the roof of the Peerless Mill Inn, a restaurant in Miamisburg. The restaurant was consumed by fire Friday, January 24, 2003.
Photo: Staff photo by Ron Alvey

STATUS: Closed in April 30, 2008. 

On Nov. 15, 2013, Star City Brewing Co., a production brewery and tasting room, opened in the historical Miamisburg building that once held the popular Peerless Mill restaurant.  

The brewery marked the 16th anniversary of the Peerless Mill fire in on Jan. 25, 2019 with a special event. 

>> RELATED:  12 places to eat, have fun in downtown Miamisburg

The building, 319 S. 2nd St. in Miamisburg, traces its history back to 1828, when it served as a sawmill on the Miami & Erie Canal.

Peerless Mill owner Gary Weigle looks over where a new bar will sit in the Miamisburg restaurant being rebuilt after a fire.
Photo: Staff photo by Chris Stewart

It became a restaurant — the Peerless Pantry — in 1929, Peerless Mill former owner Gary Wiegele told this news organization in 2008. The name was later changed to Peerless Mill. The Peerless Mill served meals to generations of Miami Valley residents, operating for nearly eight decades

A fire gutted the building in January 2003. 

Wiegele decided to rebuild, borrowing substantially to do so, and reopened in November 2004. The restaurant closed for good less than four years later on April 30, 2008.

2) IVY CLUB

Dayton firefighters and police were investigating the scene of a fire at Club Ivy in Dayton Tuesday. Firefighters were called to the scene of a fire at the Club Ivy bar at 3509 N. Main St. early Tuesday morning Aug. 26. A body of a male employee was found inside. The fire is under investigation and is being called suspicious.
Photo: Lisa Powell

>> RELATED: The ghosts of past eateries trigger wave of nostalgia

STATUS: Closed. 

The Aug. 26, 2008, arson at the club, 3509 N. Main St., claimed the life of 50-year-old chef Robert C. Fabia. 

Fabia lived in the Landing apartment complex in downtown Dayton, but often slept on a couch in the back of the Ivy Club, according to Dayton Daily News articles. 

>> Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken destroyed after fryer fire in Harrison Twp.

His body was found in the kitchen area, and the Montgomery County Coroner's Office said Fabia died from "inhalation of combustion products," according to the Dayton Daily News archives. 

Robert Fabia, left, at his restaurant, the Blue Hen Cafe at 130 W. Second St. it is now closed.
Photo: Contributed photo

Fabia operated the Blue Hen Cafe inside of the downtown Dayton YWCA and then at 130 W. Second St. before taking a job at the Dayton Women’s Club.

He eventually moved on to the Club Ivy Bar. 

Dayton fire investigator Victoria Carr testified during the 2009 trial of James D. Williams III that she found a ladder next to the club. 

She determined that the perpetrator poured gasoline down a roof vent, then set it on fire.

Investigators said it was an "arson-for-hire."

>> RELATED:  Suspect cried after death of chef in arson fire, ex-girlfriend says

Williams was convicted of aggravated arson and murder on July 30, 2009. 

Murder and arson charges against Anthony Lee Berry, the man accused of giving Williams $500 to set the fire, were dismissed by prosecutors after Williams hung himself at the state prison in Lebanon.

>> (July 10, 2010): Suicide forces charges to be dropped in Club Ivy fatal fire

3) SALAR RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE 

Photos shows damage inside of Salar in the Oregon District from a New Year's Eve weekend fire.
Photo: Photo: Meg Shaw

STATUS: OPEN 

Seated in one of the Oregon District’s most prominent locations, Salar and a half-dozen other nearby businesses received major smoke damage when fire broke out at the restaurant early on Dec. 29, 2017. 

Chef and owner Margot Blondet  and her staff were preparing for New Year’s Eve weekend celebrations.  

Blondet and her staff spent much of 2018 rebuilding and had one of the most remarkable comeback stories of the year.

Salar Restaurant and Lounge, 400 E. Fifth St. in Dayton’s Oregon District, has donated $3,600 to Dayton Children’s Hospital Burn Program.
Photo: Contributed

The restaurant held a series of soft reopening events in September 2018 that served as fund-raisers for Dayton Children’s Hospital’s Burn Program. The program helps provide burn kits to families in need that financially cannot afford to purchase the necessary medical supplies to treat injuries.

>> Following devastating fire, Dayton restaurant makes BIG donation for burned kids

Recently the restaurant donated $4,319.73 for the Dayton Foundation’s Dayton Oregon District Tragedy Fund. The fund benefits victims of the Aug. 4 mass shooting in the Oregon District that left 10 people, including the shooter, dead. 

>> DAYTON STRONG: The people who raised $5 million this summer for victims of the mass shootings and tornadoes 

More than 3,300 donors raised $1.7 million for the Dayton Foundation's fund for victims of the Memorial Day tornadoes thus far, officials say. Another 4,400 people donated $3.1 million to the foundation's fund for victims of the Aug. 4 mass shooting in the Oregon District. Salar donated $4,319.73 to the mass shooting fund.
Photo: Dayton Foundation

4) CENA BRAZILIAN STEAKHOUSE (FIRE RELATED TO CAFE BOULEVARD)

The bar at the former Cena Brazilian Steakhouse, 2854 Miamisburg-Centerville Road. File photo by Jim Witmer
Photo: Staff Writer

STATUS: Both restaurants are closed

Lily’s Bistro on East Fifth Street is a mainstay in the Oregon District. Before Lily’s, that space was the long-time home to Cafe Boulevard and later Boulevard Haus.

Cafe Boulevard owner Eva Christian has served seven years of a nine-year sentence for insurance fraud-related charges related to a fire at her other restaurant, Cena Brazilian Steakhouse, in front of the Dayton Mall.

>> 7 things to know about Eva Christian and why she’s in prison

The case has seen many twists and court actions since her June 2012 sentencing.

>> (March 25, 2019)  Eva Christian’s case returns to the Ohio Supreme Court

Eva Christian in a 2009 file photo in what was then her Cafe Boulevard restaurant. Staff file photo by Jim Witmer
Photo: Jim Witmer/for USA TODAY

The criminal case involved a 2009 fire and vandalism incident that Christian reported at Cena, and a break-in at her private residence in Washington Twp., which prosecutors and law-enforcement officials said were staged in order to collect insurance money. 

>> RELATED: How a local restaurateur fell from grace

 A jury convicted Christian in 2012 of five counts related to insurance fraud, filing a false report and running a crime ring. 

An appeal in the case to get the sentence reduced is now in the Ohio Supreme Court. 

Cena never reopened after the fire. Boulevard Haus closed in 2012.

5) K’S RESTAURANT 

Fire at K's Restaurant causes significant damage

STATUS: Closed. Owners announced they would not reopen in August.

>>RELATED (Aug 21, 2019): Fire-damaged restaurant will not reopen, owner says

The eatery on Arlington Road in Brookville suffered what the police chief described as significant damage in a July 3 fire. 

Patrons in the restaurant at the time of the fire were evacuated safely and a few firefighters were evaluated for heat-related issues.

Fire at K's Restaurant causes significant damage


Total damages were estimated at $200,000 in July. 

K’s included a banquet facility that was added about 14 years ago. A church congregation used the banquet room for Sunday services and Bible study.

FIRE AT A FAMED DAYTON RESTAURANT FROM DAYTON’S PAST

This fire dates back to the 1950s, but it was one for the history books.

A blaze in a trash basket led to the fire that gutted the interior of the Tropics restaurant at 1721 N. Main St. in Dayton, on April 15, 1953, according to an article provided by the Dayton Metro Library’s local history room

It reads in part: 

“The fire was discovered shortly after 2 a.m. by Ivan Albert, 29, a driver for the Cliff Cab. Co., who saw smoke coming from the building as he drove past the restaurant. 

He radioed his dispatcher, Robert Edwards, who called the fire division. 

Three engines and a ladder truck, with District Chief Raymond Lyons in command, were sent to the restaurant. Shortly afterward Lyons called for an extra ladder truck. 

>> RELATED: Classic Dayton restaurants you have to try and love

THE FIRE OFFICIAL said he needed the extra ladder truck to get men up on the roof to make an opening for ventilation. the fire apparently had started several hours earlier but had not broken through the restaurant’s exterior because of the building’s sturdy constriction, Lyons said. 

Once inside the place, firemen brought the roaring blaze under control in less than an hour as they poured thousands of gallons of water into the blazing interior.” 

The Tropics reopened after the blaze, and along with Annarino's and Suttmiller's, served as one of Dayton’s most popular nightspots. 

Like the others, The Tropics featured live entertainment six nights a week. The top names in show business were featured regularly.
In 1988, when his hopes of remaining open as a nightclub faded, owner George Rudin held a liquidation sale, a 1994 Dayton Daily News article says.

Many of the interesting items from the Tropics were sold.

He was on site as a wrecking crew took down the Tropics in 1994, the article said.  

>> RELATED: Gone by not forgotten Dayton restaurants 

Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.

X