Damage ‘significant’ to Hilton Head Smokehouse restaurant after early morning fire

Here’s a look at the damage a fire caused at The Smokehouse restaurant on Hilton Head

A fire was reported at The Smokehouse restaurant on Hilton Head Island around 6 a.m. on Sunday, June 9, 2019. Here's what we know.
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A fire was reported at The Smokehouse restaurant on Hilton Head Island around 6 a.m. on Sunday, June 9, 2019. Here's what we know.

Updated at 1:15 p.m. on Monday morning. You can read that coverage here.

Damage to The Smokehouse restaurant after a morning fire “is pretty significant,” Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue spokesperson Joheida Fister said Sunday afternoon.

It took several hours to put out the fire reported about 6 a.m. at the Hilton Head barbecue restaurant located on Palmetto Bay Road.

At midday, a firetruck remained on site to watch for flare-ups. Crime scene tape wrapped the entrance, and the smell of smoke remained in the air. Parts of the building were charred, and several windows were knocked out.

Fister said the fire appears to have started on an exterior wall where the electrical feed is.

“We don’t know if it was the equipment,” Fister said. “We are running lightning data for the area to see if there were any strikes in that general vicinity.”

It takes about 24 hours to retrieve the data from Weather Sentry, a business that tracks weather data for the town, she said.

She said the fire quickly spread to the attic and was difficult to put out because of the wooden beams.

“It is tough trying to get up to it because of the way of the construction,” Fister said earlier in the day.

A portion of the roof started to collapse near where the fire started, she said.

Joe Theys photo of Smokehouse.jpeg
Hilton Head Fire Rescue arrives on the scene of a fire at the Smokehouse restaurant on Hilton Head Island early Sunday, June 9, 2019. Joe Theys Submitted

Damage to the restaurant is similar to that from a March 2018 fire at the Crazy Crab at Jarvis Creek restaurant on William Hilton Parkway. That fire, which was related to cooking, also quickly spread to the attic.

“It is very similar to Crazy Crab where stuff started falling into the restaurant,” Fister said

An AC unit, for example, fell from the attic into the restaurant area of The Smokehouse, she said.

Both restaurants also sustained smoke and water damage throughout.

It took six months for the Crazy Crab restaurant to reopen in October 2018.

The Smokehouse celebrated its 20th anniversary on the island last month. The restaurant has been a longtime favorite for islanders and visitors and has won many local awards throughout the past two decades.

Smokehouse owner Jerry Leonard didn’t want to comment Sunday but posted on Facebook that no one was hurt in the fire.

“... We have the most incredible team of firefighters that work on this island, and they are working diligently to get the fire out,” Leonard said in the post.

Joe Theys of Hilton Head Island was heading off the island Sunday morning when he smelled the smoke.

“I used to be a volunteer firefighter,” Theys said. “That is a smell you never forget.”

He drove by the restaurant as the first firetruck was coming in and saw the west side of the building in flames.

“A bunch of my friends from the Motorcoach Resort and I would often go there during happy hour and hang out,” Theys said. “It is sad to watch it go up in flames.”

Hilton Head Fire Rescue personnel responded to a fire at Smokehouse restaurant on Hilton Head Island about 6 a.m. Sunday. They were still on the scene about 9 a.m. Hilton Head Fire Rescue Submitted

The Smokehouse opened in 1999 on Pope Avenue near Coligny Circle but moved in 2010 to Palmetto Bay Road because the Town of Hilton Head Island purchased the Coligny property, according to a Hilton Head Monthly article.

The Pope Avenue restaurant location was converted into a temporary fire substation for Hilton Head Fire Rescue in 2010 as the town renovated its location at Shipyard Plantation.

In 2012, the town demolished Smokehouse’s original Pope Avenue location.

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Lisa Wilson is a reporter for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. The 25-year newsroom veteran has worked for papers in Louisiana and Mississippi and is happy to call the Lowcountry home.
Teresa Moss is a crime and public safety reporter for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. She has worked as a journalist for 16-years for newspapers in Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas.