BRADENTON -- A restaurant popular with the lunchtime crowd in downtown Bradenton will have to close for about two months after a fire destroyed its back office and kitchen.
KFC Restaurant at 525 First St. sustained about $200,000 in damage during a fire caused by an improperly disposed cigarette at 11:52 p.m. Thursday, said Kenneth Langston, fire marshal for the Bradenton Fire Department.
There were no injuries from the blaze, which occurred after all employees had gone home, Langston said.
An unnamed employee extinguished a cigarette at 11:35 p.m. before closing the establishment and dumped its ashes, along with others, into a rubber garbage can that was then slid under a wooden desk in the office, Langston said.
“The ashes caught fire in the garbage can and caught the wood desk on fire and from there it spread,” Langston said.
Langston interviewed the employee, who was said to be extremely upset.
“No charges will be filed,” Langston said. “It was an accident.”
This KFC Restaurant was the busiest of the seven KFC restaurant franchises in Manatee County owned by Ferber & Sons, a Bradenton-based company that opened its first KFC Restaurant, then called Kentucky Fried Chicken, at Cortez Road and U.S. 41 in 1973.
“My grandfather, who was also Dan Ferber, opened the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in the Bradenton area around where the Best Buy store is now,” Ferber said. “In 40 years we never had a fire until now.”
The fire damage, which didn’t affect the exterior of the building, will require a total remodeling of the kitchen and back office and will inconvenience many KFC customers, said Scott Moss, an area supervisor with KFC.
“We had a killer lunch crowd,” Moss said. “We had people from Manatee Memorial Hospital and others who only had a half hour to eat and enjoyed our quick service.”
“They are losing $20,000 in sales a week from having to close,” Langston said. “They lost $12,000 in inventory from the fire alone. Not only that, but 18 employees are now out of work.”
Ferber and Moss, who were expecting a visit from their insurance adjuster on Friday afternoon, said they are considering special offers for downtown Bradenton customers who visit other nearby KFC outlets.
The fire call came in at 11:52 p.m. from a passing Bradenton Police Department officer who saw the flames, said Rebecca Pilsbury, program administrator with the Bradenton Fire Department.
Firefighters arrived on the scene at 11:56 p.m., Pilsbury said.
Three engines responded along with heavy rescue and command staff, including the fire marshal and fire investigator.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.