NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) Investigators in North Myrtle Beach believe a wiring deficiency sparked a fire that destroyed a popular barbeque restaurant in December, though the official cause is still listed as undetermined.
Investigators were called to the business off of Highway 17, located beside Applebee's Restaurant, around 10:15 p.m. Dec. 21.
Upon arrival, firefighters found heavy smoke spilling out from the building. Sources tell WMBF News no customers or workers were inside the building at the time the blaze began.
The fire destroyed the roof and much of the interior of the restaurant.
Crews from Horry County Fire Rescue worked with North Myrtle Beach in putting out the fire.
City of North Myrtle Beach Spokesperson Patrick Dowling said the cause of the fire had to be investigated after insurance agents documented the damage.
Fire investigators told WMBF News they believe the fire started with the wiring. Employees reported smelling what they thought could have been burning wires inside the building the day of the fire, however, they didn't think much of it because they worked in a barbeque restaurant.
Owner Scott Rudolph says business at the restaurant is already slow in winter, and now he is faced with trying to find hours for more than one dozen employees.
"Fortunately we have [the] Surfside [Barbeque House] and Oak Island so maybe we'll be able to utilize those locations for the employees here [in North Myrtle Beach]," Rudolph says.
Barbeque House Manager Jenny Kupfer says employees at the North Myrtle Beach Barbeque House are close, and the fire has effectively split them up for the holidays.
"We're like a family, everybody gets along and we hang out together and it's just a sad day for us right now," Kupfer says.
Server and cook Jamie Moss says she is still trying to come to grips with what happened.
"I thought this was all a dream until I came back this morning, but it's reality," Moss says.
Rudolph says there is not timetable on when the restaurant could be reopened, but appreciates the well wishes he has received from customers and neighboring businesses.
"We've had a lot of customers stopping by today, other businesses stopping by, we really appreciate the outcry of support...we're going to do our best to get back open as quick as we can and better than ever," Rudolph says.
Barbeque House also has franchises in Surfside Beach and Oak Island, North Carolina, and Rudolph says he hopes customers will visit those locations until the North Myrtle Beach location is reopened.