WALNUT CREEK -- A former restaurant, remembered for its French cuisine and murals, caught fire Saturday, seven years after it closed for business.
Fire crews arrived at the former Le Virage Restaurant at 2211 N. Main St. around 4:30 a.m. Saturday to find heavy smoke and flames coming from the second floor of the restaurant, according to fire officials.
Now most of the roof is missing and smoke stains mar the facade of the building.
It's a far cry from the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec murals that used to adorn the funky building for 34 years.
Fire damage is estimated at $500,000.
"Fire crews went to the roof to ventilate the building and quickly exited due to the amount of time the fire had been burning," according to the report on the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District's blog.
Crews had to use ladders to help fight the fire and stayed with the building until late in the morning Saturday to ensure there was no fire burning in any hard to see spaces, according to the report. Fire crews from Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord and Martinez helped with firefighting; Walnut Creek Police shut down parts of Main Street and California Boulevard while that work went on.
While the building has been sitting vacant since the restaurant closed in 2005, two deals to sell the property or reopen another restaurant there have fallen through, said owner Andreina Jasinski. Her husband Lolek Jasinski, who set the memorable
It's hard for Andreina Jasinski to look at the restaurant after the fire, which she says gutted the inside.
"It's very, very sad for me to see it," she said. "It didn't hit me the first day, and then (Monday) it really hit me."
While the investigation into the fire is ongoing, Jasinski said she does not know how the fire started. Fire officials told her it likely was started by squatters who may have been living in the abandoned building.
Le Virage, which means "the turn," was named for the curve in the road where it sits at the junction of North Main Street and California Boulevard. One of the oldest buildings in the city, it was formerly known as "Stan's Brick House" and a picture of the restaurant in the middle of a field in 1925 adorned the restaurants walls for decades. It's even rumored that what was once the private upstairs dining room for the restaurant at one time housed a brothel.
A few months ago the beloved murals on the outside of the restaurant were painted over. It was mandated by the city to cover graffiti someone had sprayed on the building, Jasinski said.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.