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Community comes together after fire damages Irish pub

POSTED: March 18, 2014 11:58 p.m.

Neither rain nor fire can keep Shenanigans Irish Restaurant & Pub from celebrating St. Patrick’s Day.

The Dahlonega-based restaurant was out in full force Monday for its biggest event of the year despite a Thursday morning fire that damaged most of the building that housed it.

“The outpouring of support from the community and employees ... I have never seen anything like it,” said Tommy Lee, co-owner of the restaurant. “It’s all about caring, and the outpouring of true caring is undoubtedly the most I have ever seen in my life.”

The celebration was held at The Bourbon Street Grille, which is just down the street from Shenanigans, and at nearby Hancock Park. It included live music from local bands, drinks and food, but fundraisers drew an equal amount of attention. Silent auctions, donation buckets, raffles and T-shirt proceeds were all used to help raise money for the restaurant’s 32 employees who are now without a job while Shenanigans rebuilds.

Kevin Maelor started working for the restaurant four years ago and is now the kitchen manager.

“I’ve got kids, and my wife doesn’t work,” he said. “This is the only income we’ve got.

“It’s been overwhelming, but it has been awesome watching the community come together, pitching in and trying to help donate to take care of everybody.”

Several local businesses have offered temporary jobs to many of Shenanigans employees, but Maelor said he is waiting to make sure his co-workers are taken care of before he takes another job. In addition, the Department of Labor is meeting with the employees today to discuss unemployment and how to survive until the pub reopens.

The dollar bills that were put up along the walls of the restaurant by customers were also collected and given to the employees.

Early Thursday morning, Lee, who owns the building along with his wife, Machi Lee, and partner Deb Rowe, received a call telling him his business was burning.

When he arrived, flames were showing and firefighters were putting out the blaze. The fire started in the restaurant’s office, and the cause is suspected to be either a space heater or electrical malfunction, Machi Lee said.

The fire mostly affected the side of the building facing Warwick Street, but the entire restaurant sustained heavy water damage.

“My office is where it started. I walked in to look at it and walked out,” Machi Lee said. “We just did a renovation in our prep kitchen.

“We had a new carpet put in the pub and a new bar top. I haven’t even paid for that yet.”

Despite the damage, the building will not have to be torn down, and the owners said they expect repairs to be finished in time for the restaurant to reopen in roughly 90 days. All of the employees would then be able to return to their jobs.

At the celebration, longtime Dahlonega residents and frequent Shenanigans customers Pam Maak and Judi Trask reminisced about times spent at the restaurant.

“Every time we go there, the owners always come over and everybody hugs everybody,” Maak said. “It’s like everybody really cares.”

“People have just been so shocked,” Trask said. “I don’t think it has really set in yet, but the community has just pulled together in a very short period of time.

“I think it will be bigger and better when they rebuild.”


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