Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 26, 2013

‘Mayflower is going to be missed’

Investigator seeks origin of fire

BLUEFIELD, Va. — Click here for video

Firefighters with the Bluefield, Va., Volunteer Fire Department were on the scene of the Mayflower Seafood Restaurant fire for six hours late Thursday night and until about 4 a.m., on Friday, but people throughout the community seemed to be in a state of shock after the loss of the popular restaurant.

“One of our firefighters said flames were coming out of the roof when he was on his way here to the station,” Chief Jim Hardy of the Bluefield, Va., Volunteer Fire Department said. “The restaurant owner closed for the night about an hour before the fire started. Hopefully, he’ll be able to build again.”

Ervin Rich built the restaurant in 1987. It was called the Seafarer Restaurant when it was first opened, but the name changed to the Mayflower during a previous ownership change. While it has always offered seafood specials, the restaurant was also well known for its diverse menu offerings. On Tuesday night, the audience attending the Bluefield, Va., Business & Professional Association’s fall membership meeting gave Chris Booth and his staff a rousing round of applause in a show of appreciation for the buffet banquet the restaurant staff had served.

“The Mayflower is going to be missed by a lot of people,” Bluefield, Va., Mayor Don Harris said. “The restaurant was well-known for the special dinners it prepared, but it also had a good business every day. There was always a large crowd in the parking lot for people who dined there after church on Sunday.

“It is certainly a tragedy and a loss for our community,” Harris said. “It is probably one of the oldest sit-down restaurants we have in our town.”

Bluefield, Va., Police Chief Harry Cundiff said that, at the recommendation of Tazewell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Lee, he asked the Virginia State Police to investigate the fire.

“It was just such a hot fire that we want to find out what caused it if we can,” Cundiff said. He said that he discussed the investigation with the business owner and asked him to authorize the investigation. “He was glad to do that,” Cundiff said. “Chris doesn’t know what he’s going to do now.”

Hardy said that he put the Bluefield Fire Department on stand-by while his department battled the blaze. “We had about every piece of equipment that we have out here,” he said.

Local residents visited the parking lot to see the sight for themselves. Some took pictures, but others just remained in their vehicles staring at the scene. “I hope they build it back,” one woman said as she left the parking lot. Others throughout the town expressed similar thoughts.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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