CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - It’s been nearly two months since Hurricane Florence and businesses damaged from the flooding are trying to make up for lost time. It’s been tough for many businesses who were forced to shut down. One of those businesses is Bonfire, a popular restaurant in Downtown Conway. They have been working to re-open their doors and get back on their feet.
Bonfire sits on Conway’s riverfront and when the river crested, the building was flooded with about two feet of water.
However the owner of Bonfire, Darren Smith, said luckily they were able to prepare ahead of the storm, and it helped. Smith said friends, employees and the community were able to elevate all the restaurant’s equipment, and the tables and chairs were safely stored away. He also said when he was finally able to return to the restaurant for the first time, there was less than 50 percent damage to the building. But it was still enough that he had to rebuild.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and that’s weird to say, but we had elevated everything. All my equipment was gone. It was kind of calm in there, there were some fish in there, there were some buckled boards. But the structure was there, our HVAC was there, a lot of the murals,” said Smith.
Right now, the restaurant is about 80-percent complete. The next step is to put in the new flooring. They’re also renovating the bar, and plan to bring all the equipment back in from storage. Smith said they’re working day in and day out to re-open their doors so the community can return and enjoy the traditional southern smokehouse.
“It’s horrible and it’s bad for our business, I hate it for my employees’ number one. They’re more like family, so I hate the fact that they’re out of work. So, I’m trying as quick as we can to get back open but others in our community lost so much more than we did. So we’re just here to support, try to get back open, be here for Conwayites,” said Smith.
This isn’t the first-time tragedy has struck this business. Just two years ago, the restaurant caught fire. Smith also owns Rivertown Bistro right up the street and says that restaurant also caught on fire a decade ago. But he says these setbacks aren’t stopping him.
“It’s kind of crazy. I had a fire here at Rivertown Bistro a decade ago and that rocked my world. This is my baby, this is my restaurant, my dream, and it was horrible. When we had a fire at Bonfire, it was horrible in a different way because I had already experienced it. This flood is a nuisance but now it’s almost like alright I know exactly what to do, let’s just put it into motions. Then I kind of hide and absorb and swallow all those raw emotions. Maybe they’ll come out one day, but as of right now, it’s just like a business. This happened, let’s get through it, let’s get back to work,” said Smith.
Smith said there's no guaranteed opening date, but he hopes to be back in business by the end of the year or early 2019.
“My dream is to open it and never experience another horrific tragedy,” said Smith.
Smith plans to host a benefit event for the community and flood victims sometime within the next month. He also said they plan to host more Bonfire specials over at Rivertown Bistro in the meantime for those that need their traditional southern smokehouse fix.