El Moro Tavern, a popular bar and eatery in downtown Durango, will likely remain closed for a couple of months while repairs are made from an early morning fire that scaled a wall and smoldered through an attic, causing extensive smoke and water damage to the rear of the restaurant.
“We’re not going away. We’re fighters. We’re going to rebuild it, and we’ll get it back open, and we’ll make it better than ever,” said Kris Oyler, chief executive of the parent company of El Moro and Steamworks Brewing Co.
While the official cause remained under investigation, firefighters said they are focused on a water heater in the rear of the building.
A passer-by reported heavy smoke at 7:11 a.m. at 945 Main Ave. The blaze activated a sprinkler system that firefighters said limited the spread. The fire was mostly extinguished as of 8 a.m., said Karola Hanks, fire marshal with the Durango Fire Protection District.
The 900 block of Main Avenue was closed until about noon while 40 firefighters and five engines worked the blaze.
Flames were contained to El Moro, but smoke traveled to several adjacent businesses, causing an unpleasant odor if not damage to merchandise.
Firefighters broke down a door at Moe’s Starlite Lounge, which is next door to El Moro, and ripped a 3-foot by 3-foot hole in the ceiling to check for fire spread. It caused about $400 in damage to the business, said Rick Carney, owner and head dishwasher of Moe’s.
He planned to stay closed for the day, in part to assess the situation and remove the smell of smoke, which he joked could be remedied with incense and Febreze.
“I got lucky. Merry Christmas to me,” Carney said. “The fire department did an incredible job. I’m so (expletive) grateful to those guys. They even apologized about breaking my door down.”
Other businesses were more concerned about the smoke damage. Tippy Canoe and Duranglers Flies and Supplies ran fans Tuesday in their businesses. Tippy Canoe Owner Sharon Taylor said some merchandise may need to be professionally cleaned to remove the smell of smoke. Employees at Duranglers moved most of the merchandise downstairs where there was less smoke.
Dave Woodruff, general manager of El Moro, said most of the damage occurred near the rear of restaurant, and the signature steampunk décor in the main dining area “seems to be unharmed at this point.”
Kitchen equipment was largely unharmed.
“It was heartbreaking to watch, that’s for sure,” Woodruff said. “You put your heart and soul into a place, and it’s like a baby to you.”
The restaurant plans to keep all of its 40 workers employed during the closure, Oyler said.
“Thankfully, no one was injured, and the fire was contained to our building,” he said. “We are indebted to Durango Fire and Rescue, and we do apologize to our neighbors for the smoke, and to the community for impacting downtown Durango.”
The building is owned by the Caroline M & Thomas A Thomas Trustees, with a mailing address in Golden, according to the La Plata County Assessor’s Office.
The fire was minor in comparison to one in 2008 that gutted Seasons Rotisserie & Grill and two adjacent businesses.