09/07/13 4:00pm
09/07/2013 4:00 PM
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Downtown Riverhead restaurant Cliff's Rendezvous, which closed at the end of June due to damage from a kitchen fire, reopened its doors Sept. 7.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Downtown Riverhead restaurant Cliff’s Rendezvous, which closed at the end of June due to damage from a kitchen fire, reopened its doors Sept. 7.

A little more than two months after a small kitchen fire forced Cliff’s Rendezvous to close its doors, the downtown Riverhead restaurant reopened for business today with little fanfare but heaps of happy customers.

Christina Saunders, whose husband, Cliff Saunders, owns the casual bar and eatery, said Saturday afternoon she and her husband didn’t know until “the last minute” when the restaurant would be able to reopen.

“We had to make sure everything was in place,” she said. “We got all the permits and all the inspections done. Everybody gave us the green light, so as of yesterday we said, ‘That’s it! We can do it.’ We’ve been waiting a very long time.’ ”

A grease fire broke out at the popular restaurant June 25 when, Mr. Saunders said, one of the chefs in the kitchen left a pan of bacon unattended near the oven and boiler. Although it suffered minor damage, a small section of the restaurant’s roof near the chimney was charred as a result of the fire and carpeting in the lower dining room was damaged and needed to be replaced as well, Mr. Saunders said.

While Cliff’s Rendezvous was closed, Ms. Saunders said, she and the crew took time to give the restaurant a deep cleaning and make some repairs. Both the upper and lower dining room’s carpeted floors were replaced with ceramic tile that looks like hardwood flooring.

“We made good use of the time,” she said.

Lou Welsh, who has been the bartender at Cliff’s Rendezvous for the past 17 years, said between customers he was happy the restaurant had reopened.

“It’s been a long time,” he said.

To thank the firefighters who helped extinguish the fire, Ms. Saunders said the restaurant plans to host a dinner for the Riverhead Fire Department Monday evening.

“[The fire] was in the middle of that heat wave and some of the firefighters were in full uniform,” Ms. Saunders said. “We’ve been here a long time and they came out for us, and it’s nice to be able to say thank you.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

07/02/13 12:00pm
07/02/2013 12:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead firefighters outside Cliff's Rendezvous after last Tuesday's grease fire.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead firefighters outside Cliff’s Rendezvous after last Tuesday’s grease fire.

Cliff’s Rendezvous is slowly recovering and rebuilding from a fire at the popular downtown eatery last week, the restaurant’s owner said Monday.

Owner Cliff Saunders said last Tuesday’s fire started when one of the chefs in the kitchen left a pan of bacon unattended near the oven and the boiler.

“It must’ve spattered and that’s why it ignited,” Mr. Saunders said.

The Riverhead Fire Department arrived at the restaurant shortly before 3 p.m. to extinguish the blaze. The firefighting effort closed down a part of East Main Street between Union and Maple avenues for about an hour before roads were reopened.

As a result of the fire, the restaurant suffered minor damage and has been closed since last week, Mr. Saunders said. A small section of the roof near the chimney was charred as a result of the fire, he said, adding that carpeting in the lower dining room was damaged and will have to be replaced as well.

“There was some damage from the firemen using the hose,” Mr. Saunders said. “It washed out into the dining room and it kind of flooded the floor so we had to tear the carpet up … The damage is fairly minimal, it’s just a matter of rebuilding.”

Mr. Saunders said he hopes to reopen the restaurant within a week or two.

He said he was grateful for the outpouring of support from both town employees and the community.

“The town has been nothing but stellar,” Mr. Saunders said. “A couple of our customers work for the town and they want to see us open.”

Just a few days after the fire at Cliff’s Rendezvous, a major fire occurred at Athens Grill just down the street. Having been through a similar, but less severe incident, Mr. Saunders is sympathetic to what his neighbors are going through now and was glad no one was hurt in either fire.

“If you drive down Main Street past Athens Grill you can still smell [the smoke] in the road,” Mr. Saunders said. “I just hope they can get everything repaired, because something like that could have happened to us.”