MINNEOTA?- C.J.'s Bar and Grill in Minneota reopened Aug. 2 after being closed for five months following an after-hours kitchen fire that damaged the interior of the restaurant.
Dan and Kari Morisette, the owners of the restaurant, suspect a stove was accidentally left on overnight March 11, causing heat to build up in the kitchen and the fire to flare up.
"Our security camera caught a flare-up at 3 and by 3:09 it went out due to the heat," Dan Morisette said.
Photo by Phillip Bock
Dan and Kari Morisette are happy to be open again and serving Minneota and the area after reopening after a March fire. The blaze closed the popular eatery for five months
The fire suppression system installed in the kitchen put out the fire quickly, but the high heat and smoke had already caused damage throughout the business.
"I walked in at 7 that morning and the building was still filled with smoke," Kari Morisette said.
Because the fire suppression did its job, Dan Morisette said, the damage was minimal. Originally they had planned to clean up the damage and reopen quickly, but after tearing down some paneling in the kitchen the State of Minnesota considered the project a remodel.
"Then everything had to come up to code," Dan Morisette said. "We had to hire an engineer and an architect."
The project suddenly was a lot more complicated. The electrical, flooring, air handling equipment and plumbing all had to be replaced in order to bring the building up to code.
"Instead of it costing our insurance company right around $30,000 it's going to be, my guess, $150,000," Dan Morisette said. "That's simply because the State of Minnesota decided to bring it up to code."
Then the waiting game began.
For the five months the building was closed, four of them were spent waiting for approval from the state.
"It took about four months to get the approval to begin construction," Dan Morisette said.
Some good did come from the remodel. Since the kitchen had to be redone, the Morisettes took the opportunity to install a new piece of equipment they had always wanted: a smoker.
"It is something we always wanted," Dan Morisette said. "But because of state codes we've never been able to afford to do it."
A new menu featuring a variety of smoked entres highlights the renovated restaurant. The bar and seating area have new lighting, ceiling tiles and flooring as a result of the remodel.
Highlighting the new menu are smoked ribs and a unique smoked potato salad, Morisette said.
"They've been a major hit," Dan Morisette said. "We've had people come in three times since we've been open to have the ribs."
While some items on the old menu are no longer offered, several of the popular items people had enjoyed at C.J.'s will continue to be served up, Dan Morisette said.
"Even though we changed our menu the things that people always came in for are still on there," he said. "The handmade pizzas are still on there and the handmade Mexican (foods) are still on there."
With Boxelder Bug Days coming up the Morisette's said they are looking forward to reconnecting with their customers they have lost touch with over the last five months. During the festival they will be serving brats and hot dogs outside.
"We enjoy mingling with our customers and getting to know people. We felt over the last five months we lost contact with our lot of friends in town," Dan Morisette said. "The reopening has been kind of getting to know people again."