Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q is back, after late July kitchen fire
After being closed for more than a month, Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q & Pizza has reopened its doors and is back serving food to the Montclair community.
Early on Wednesday, July 27, the eatery, located at 64½ Chestnut St., was hit by a kitchen fire, which was determined to have been caused by a malfunction of the restaurant's meat smoker. Although no one was injured and minimal damage occurred, Ruthie’s had to navigate a series of permits and repairs to ensure a safe reopening.
“Once you have a fire, you lose your certificate of occupancy, and so you basically have to go back and you have to make sure that everything in our restaurant is up to code,” co-owner Ruth Perretti said.
“A lot of it was waiting — just waiting for eyes to get on the application.”
While the approval to reopen took longer than initially expected, Peretti said that both Councilman Peter Yacobellis and Councilwoman Robin Schlager aided in the reopening process by helping to push along the restaurant’s permits.
“I think they knew in the Building Department that there was a lot of excitement about getting Ruthie’s back open,” Perretti said. “I think they seemed to feel that and were aware of that, so when it came to scheduling inspections, they were very helpful.”
Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q & Pizza officially received approval for its reopening permit on Monday, Aug, 29, had inspections that Friday, Sept. 2, and opened the doors on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
Knowing that the permit would set the restaurant in motion for a reopening day, Perretti and her partner, co-owner and chef, Eric Kaplan, thought ahead and began prepping food a few days prior to the opening.
“We make everything from scratch here,” she said. “Even our mayonnaise is made from scratch.”
Ruthie’s had its last inspection from the Health Department on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Because of the owners’ forward thinking, Ruthie’s had the food it needed to be able to open the following day.
Perretti and Kaplan live above Ruthie’s. During the closed period, Perretti, who is used to the busy-ness of her restaurant, said there was a noticeable energy shift on the block.
“When we were closed, it was really sad,” she said. “It just felt very unfamiliar to be here and have it be so quiet, and just have nothing going on on a weekend and have the neighborhood feel as quiet as it did.”
Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q & Pizza is within walking distance of many schools, including Montclair High School, Renaissance Middle School and the Montclair Cooperative School. Students stopping by for a slice of pizza or another quick bite to eat make up a large portion of the lunchtime clientele.
While closed, students had to go elsewhere to enjoy some food with friends. This — along with such concerns as canceled summer concerts and the loss of some part-time summer employees — initially had Peretti worried about her customers returning.
But 15-year-old Montclair High School sophomore Izzy Lawyer, who heard the news of the fire from her parents, thinks that the reopening may spark a new excitement in the community to get back to Ruthie’s.
“I feel like, if anything, they’d want to come back more,” Lawyer said. “That excitement of, like, opening it up again, they'll be like, ‘Oh, we can come back here now,’ and if people haven't been there before, you know, they'll spread the word that it's open again, and they'll be like, ‘Oh, what's this place?’ and go try it out.”
Lawyer said she has been going to Ruthie’s since she was in third grade. For her it’s a place to come after school, before school activities and after large, nighttime high school events, like chorus concerts.
“I guess it feels very homey,” she said. “You could just be so comfortable and always have fun here.”
That community-based atmosphere is an aspect of the restaurant Perretti takes pride in. Now that the restaurant is back in service, she is looking to hire additional employees and said she looked forward to seeing her business come alive again.
“People always say they love the vibe here,” she said. “I think it's the fact that it really does feel like you're going to someone's home, because this is our home.”