Plans for a big weekend at the PTL Pub & Grub Club went up in billowing black smoke Friday.
An unattended toaster oven left on in a basement kitchen caught fire just after 10 a.m., igniting a blaze that spread to a dry good storage area and filled the Milan Road establishment with black, acrid smoke. The blaze, which was contained to the basement, caused heavy smoke damage on the main floor where the bar and dining area are located, as well as to the second-floor party room, where a catered party was slated for tonight.
Co-owner Kimberly Wells-Smith wiped tears from her eyes as she watched firefighters enter and exit the building after extinguishing the fire.
"Summer is a slow season. We're a local business. We're not on U.S. 250. We count on the fall and winter to carry us," Wells-Smith said.
Wells-Smith and her husband, Jeff Smith, were planning on a busy weekend. They figured the place would be packed Saturday for the Ohio State-USC game and had a party planned for Sunday's Browns-Steelers game.
Because the fire was contained to the basement, there was a chance Pub & Grub could remain open for the weekend if it passed an inspection by the Erie County Health Department. It did not pass.
"If I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck," Wells-Smith said.
The PTL in the name of the establishment stands for Part Time Losers, she said.
"I feel like a full-time loser," Jeff Smith said.
Wells-Smith and a handful of others were sitting around the bar at about 10 a.m. when Wells-Smith's father said he smelled smoke. When he went outside, he spotted black smoke coming from the basement and yelled for someone to call 911, Wells-Smith said.
Sandusky Fire Chief Mike Meinzer said smoke from the fire was so thick and black, firefighters could not locate the blaze at first.
Sandusky Battalion Fire Chief Mike Yost estimated the damages in excess of $50,000. Perkins Township and Margaretta Township fire departments assisted in fighting the fire.
Meinzer contacted city officials to see if there was a way the Smiths might be able to relocate to a shuttered restaurant until repairs could be made to Pub & Grub.
Pub & Grub's Steelers-Browns party will be 5:30 p.m. Sunday at Caesars Crystal Palace at Sandusky Plaza, 1058 Cleveland Road. All specials will be honored.