Tuesday, December 18, 2012

After Fire, Neighboring Businesses Raise Funds to Support American Oak

By Luke Tsai
Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 10:00 AM

A suspicious fire that took place early on Saturday, December 8, not only shut Alameda’s American Oak (2319 Santa Clara Ave.) down indefinitely, it also put the gastropub and whiskey saloon’s entire staff out of work just two weeks before Christmas — a tough break if there ever was one.

“Even if insurance covers [the staff’s] wages, it can’t replace their tips,” co-owner Melanie Hartman noted.

Thank goodness, then, for the kindness of neighbors. According Hartman, ever since word about the fire first got around last week, there has been an outpouring of support from the other bars and restaurants in the area.

Several of them are even hosting events to help raise money for American Oak’s employees: Swell Bar (1539 Lincoln Ave.) already donated 50 percent of its sales this past Saturday night to the staff. Angela’s Bistro and Bar (2301 Central Ave.) donated all of the cash tips from last night’s “Mojito Monday” event, and will donate all proceeds from its Friday Night Flights ($10 for two glasses of wine) on December 21 as well. Finally, Pappo (2320 Central Ave.) will chip in by hosting a holiday dinner for the American Oak staff.

In the meantime, the Alameda Police Department continues its investigation into the fire, which firefighters on the scene had deemed “suspicious” due to the fact that the fire appeared to have started in two different locations — a likely sign of arson.

Alameda police did not immediately return What the Fork’s request for further information. And while Hartman wasn’t at liberty to discuss the details, she did go so far as to say, “It was absolutely deliberately set; there’s no doubt about that.”

American Oaks prized whiskey collection: mostly destroyed (via Facebook).
  • American Oak's prized whiskey collection: mostly destroyed (via Facebook).
She declined to comment on a possible motive for the alleged crime.

According to Hartman, the timeline for reopening the restaurant is still uncertain, pending further discussion with insurance companies and cleaning companies — she said most of the damage to the interior of the restaurant was caused by smoke. That said, she said she hopes to be able to reopen within a month or two.

The total cost of the necessary repairs is also still unclear, though the initial fire department assessment estimated $200,000 of damage inside the restaurant, plus another $250,000 to the building itself.

Perhaps the biggest loss: Hartman estimated that more than half of the restaurant’s carefully-curated whiskey supply was destroyed.

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