Electrical problem blamed for fire at Romano's

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 9, 2011

SALISBURY — Fire investigators say the fire that gutted Romano’s restaurant started near an electrical outlet in the kitchen. In a report released by the Salisbury Fire Department, investigators deemed the cause accidental. The fire started at an electrical outlet that contained a power cord that was “most likely damaged and pulled loose from a connector, thus igniting nearby combustibles,” the report said. Romano’s at 1510 W. Innes St. caught fire about 11 p.m. Wednesday night after employees had left. The building is valued at $115,463. The report estimated the building’s damage at $85,000. Nick Georgiou said Thursday that he plans to have Romano’s open again in 2012.
Employees struggling
By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — Lisa Gilbeau had a lot on her mind when she left Romano’s Italian Restaurant Wednesday night.
Gilbeau’s husband was laid off at the end of November and the holidays were nearing, she said.
A few hours later, the West Innes Street business where she worked as a waitress  was gutted as a fire that started near the kitchen spread into the attic.
Gilbeau heard the news Thursday morning from her landlord.
She said she hoped his information was wrong.
“I’m devastated,” she said. “I feel horrible.”
Gilbeau was one of about 15 employees who worked at Romano’s, 1510 West Innes Street.
Nick Georgiou said he’s working with employees at Romano’s sister restaurant, Capriano’s, to help affected employees get shifts during the eatery’s closed period.
Gilbeau, who moved to Salisbury in July, stood and looked through a broken window at her now ruined restaurant Thursday morning.
Yellow tape lined the outside of the brick building and a sign previously used for daily specials directed customers to Capriano’s, in the shopping center near Tinseltown.
Later in the afternoon, Salisbury firefighters shoveled scorched wood and ashes outside as they worked to find the source of the fire.
A half-melted cash register sat outside.
Georgiou also owns Palms Cafe, across West Innes Street from Romano’s, and Capriano’s, stopped by the restaurants Thursday.
The 64-year-old called Romano’s “my baby,” but said he’s focusing on the business aspect and not on the sentimental.
“I’m trying to get away from the emotional part,” he said. “It happened during the Christmas time to my loyal employees. Now they have to go through hard times during the Christmas time.”
Georgiou said he wants to get shifts for all the employees at Romano’s, most of which he said are students, but said employees at other restaurants still have to get their shifts.
By the afternoon, Gilbeau had already picked up a shift at Capriano’s.
“What you want to do, and what you can do — it’s quite a difference apart between those things,” he said. “We’re going to do anything we can to help them out.”
He remained optimistic Thursday and said he expects the business to return next year.
“I’m not looking at the tough times, I’m looking further up,” he said. “The restaurant will be back up, my employees will have jobs again and my customers will be happy again.”
Fire Department officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday evening.
Georgiou said he was also told by firefighters on the scene that the fire started near the kitchen shortly after employees left for the evening.
Georgiou said the business was insured, but said he hadn’t spoken to the insurance company yet about the coverage.
“I’m allergic to pessimism,” he joked. “I don’t want to look back and see all of the negative things, because then I’m going to sneeze.”
This isn’t the first time Georgiou has had a similar incident.
He called 911 dispatch in 2001 after finding a fire in the kitchen at McCabe’s, which he then owned.
McCabe’s was closed for repairs, but reopened before eventually closing again about two years ago.
Georgiou said he will still give out toys for children at Capriano’s on Dec. 23.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246 or nhardin@salisburypost.com.