OAKLAND -- A trash bin fire set early Saturday morning forced the temporary closure of Hawker Fare, a popular Uptown restaurant.
Simon Espinoza said he was returning to his family's restaurant, El Burrito Gordo, near the intersection of 23rd and Webster streets about 1 a.m. Saturday when he saw three men standing over a trash bin with flames shooting up about 12 feet. Espinoza called 911, and the trio fled after hearing sirens, he said.
Fire crews responded, but the small blaze was out by the time they arrived, Battalion Chief Lisa Baker said.
The fire spread to the restaurant's electrical boxes, knocking out power to the business, including its freezer packed with food, said General Manager A. Senamatmontry.
It was not immediately clear if the fire was related to protests of the verdict in the Florida trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. In the days after the July 13 verdict, protesters smashed windows and burned trash cans along Broadway and Telegraph Avenue, causing damage at Flora restaurant and Bar Dogwood. Hawker Fare is at 23rd and Webster streets, blocks away from the epicenter of vandalism during the Zimmerman protests.
Senamatmontry said a surveillance camera directly above where the fire was started may offer some clues.
The camera shut off when the electricity went out, so investigators have not been able to review it yet.
PG&E crews were restoring power Monday, and city inspectors are expected to visit later Monday or Tuesday. The restaurant tentatively plans to reopen Thursday.
Chef James Syhabout opened Hawker Fare two years ago at the same location where his mother operated a Thai restaurant, Senamatmontry said. Syhabout plans to open gastropub Box and Bells in September in Rockridge, and his Piedmont Avenue restaurant, Commis, earned Oakland its first Michelin star.
"We're trying to get everything up and running as soon as we can," Senamatmontry said. "It's horrible."
Staff Writer Matt O'Brien contributed to this report. David DeBolt covers breaking news. Contact him at 510-262-2728. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.