Fire at popular Hamilton restaurant causes estimated $45K in damages

A fire in the kitchen caused damaged at Kostas Restaurant in Hamilton on Tuesday morning, Dec. 17, 2019. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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A fire in the kitchen caused damaged at Kostas Restaurant in Hamilton on Tuesday morning, Dec. 17, 2019. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

A fire damaged a popular, longtime Hamilton restaurant Tuesday, one that had recently reopened under new ownership after months of renovations.

Crews were dispatched to Kostas Restaurant, 221 Court St. in Hamilton, at 5:52 a.m. for a report of a kitchen fire, according to Hamilton Fire Chief Mark Mercer. There were reports of smoke showing from the roof.

A kitchen employee was the only person in the building, Mercer said.

Smoke damage was visible on the ceiling when the Journal-News arrived Tuesday morning.

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Mercer said fire officials called the blaze accidental and believe it started in a faulty gas line or gas connection to the griddle. The fire caused an estimated $45,000 in damage to the cooking appliance and interior furnishings.

“It doesn’t seem to be anything structural,” he said. “It’s a concrete building, so it’s pretty well protected from a short-term fire like that.”

Mercer said HFD knocked down the fire within half an hour and would have been able to do so more quickly but the shutoff for the gas was in the structure next door.

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The City of Hamilton and its gas department will do a check on the restaurant’s gas lines, Mercer said.

The diner, which first opened in 1950, shut down in September 2018 when then-owner Young-Hee Kim posted a sign to the door saying, “Look for our Return.” Kostas reappeared on Hamilton’s dining scene early last month after a more than yearlong absence.

It was purchased in January by new owner Yunhui Bui, a Hamilton resident of 34 years, and reopened on Nov. 5 with a new kitchen and renovated dining room.

A spokesman for Bui said Tuesday that she would not be providing comment until today.

Crews could be seen working to replace broken glass windows at the front of the restaurant Tuesday and making other repairs inside the facility.

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Customers who turned out for the Nov. 5 re-opening of Kostas told the Journal-News said they were happy to once again dine at the beloved eatery and lauded its revamped look, which included new flooring, tables, booths and a fresh coat of paint.

The restaurant has attracted the attention of Hollywood filmmakers. Movies including “Carol” and “Dark Waters” filmed scenes there.

News of the fire at Kostas elicited a flood of well wishes via social media, with many proclaiming their love for the longtime business.

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“Awww. I just ate there for the 1st time last weekend,” said AnnMarie Broshear LeClerc in a post to the Journal-News Facebook page. “That’s sad, I hope they can clean up and reopen soon.”

Terry Stephens said he had just dined at Kostas on Monday morning.

“Thought about going back this morning,” Stephens wrote Tuesday. “Was going to be my place to go since Andy’s on Main closed! Hope they can reopen!”

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