Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q & Pizza prepares for a return
Since last week, the owners of Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q & Pizza have been assessing the damage caused by an early morning kitchen fire that forced the eatery to temporarily close. Although no one was injured and the fire was quickly extinguished, the restaurant has repairs to make and protocols to follow to ensure a safe reopening.
In its 15 years of operation, Ruthie’s had never had a fire until the morning of July 27. Co-owner and chef Eric Kaplan was in the upstairs living quarters that he shares with his wife and co-owner, Ruth Perretti, when the fire ignited. He got out safely and no injuries were reported related to the fire; their home was not damaged.
Perretti said that the challenge now is to work through the inspections and construction mandates required to reopen.
“The process we’re going through, it's a learning experience,” Perretti said. “I’ve been telling people it’s a lot of red tape. Everybody's got to come in and photograph, assess, look and make sure it's all good.”
Perretti has been working with two different insurance companies — one for the building and one for the business. Each company has its own adjusters and inspectors to assess the damage and repair requirements.
One of the restaurant’s first steps was to provide the building department of Montclair with an architect report, which certified that the building is structurally sound and ready for repairs.
“I have the go-ahead now to let my electrician start filing permits to repair the electric work,” Perretti said. “As soon as those permits get approved, then we will start working.”
The heat from the fire melted some of the restaurant’s electrical wires, she said. Those wires, which were connected to some of the building’s lights, are the first thing in need of repair.
The next task is restoration of the kitchen’s drop ceiling. The Fire Department had to rip out the drop ceiling to ensure the fire did not damage the ceiling and the apartment above the restaurant, Perretti said.
The last thing on the repair list is a replacement window.
“That’s about it,” she said. “Basically, it's getting the approvals so we can start the work, and then after the work is done, you have to have inspections. So it's a matter of how quickly they can get here and inspect us.”
Upon investigation, Montclair’s fire official reported the cause of the fire was a malfunction of the restaurant's meat cooker, Deputy Chief Robert Duncan said. Perretti said the restaurant has already ordered a replacement smoker.
Something that has helped Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q & Pizza work through this hardship is the response of the Montclair community, Perretti said, adding that the number of social media comments, calls and messages the restaurant has received in support has been heartwarming.
She said both Councilman Peter Yacobellis and Councilwoman Robin Schlager have been in contact with the restaurant, helping to move the inspection processes along as quickly as possible.
“It means a lot to us that this town has reached out the way it has,” she said. “People are very eager for us to get open again, as are we.”
The restaurant has decided that they will be offering gift certificates for locals to purchase if they would like to support its employees. They will be paid their wages while the eatery is closed but will lose tips, she said. The gift card purchases will help make up that gap.
To purchase a Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q & Pizza gift certificate, patrons can email the restaurant at firstname.lastname@example.org and can pick up the certificate once the restaurant is open.
“For us, it’s not just a business,” Perretti said, “it’s our home.”