Smoke billowed above Shockoe Slip as the popular Tobacco Company restaurant and club caught fire Saturday morning one week shy of its 40th anniversary.
Richmond fire department spokesman Lt. Chris Armstrong said one restaurant employee was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. No other injuries were reported.
The restaurant in the 1200 block of East Cary Street will be closed indefinitely for repairs, leaving its hundreds of employees jobless.
Tobacco Company marketing representative David Campbell said he will not be able to say how long the business will be closed until management receives a full damage assessment from the city inspector and fire marshal. He said the assessment could take at least two days to be completed.
"Our first thoughts are of our guests and our restaurant family," Campbell said in a statement on Monday. "The amount of support we have received from area businesses and friends has been heartwarming.
"We will be sending out weekly updates on the progress of our renovations and our plans for our grand reopening."
Richmond fire Lt. Shawn Jones said the three-alarm fire may have started around the kitchen area on the first floor and spread to three floors.
Campbell said about 10 employees were working inside the building when the fire occurred about 10 a.m. The fire was marked under control at 11:55 a.m.
In the rush to leave the building, some employees left their belongings behind. Fire crews and maintenance worked to retrieve the items once the fire was extinguished about 2:30 p.m.
Fire officials have not determined the cause as they were still assessing the status of the building, but Jones said they did not believe it was suspicious.
The Tobacco Company fire came a week after another restaurant along Cary Street closed due to damage from a fire in the kitchen area. Owners of the restaurant Don’t Look Back announced it would not reopen for six months.
The Tobacco Company is the third Richmond restaurant to close due to a fire since March. Rappahannock restaurant at 320 E. Grace St. was shut for more than a month after a fire on March 5.
Bev’s Homemade Ice Cream at 2911 W. Cary St. reopened in April following a Thanksgiving eve fire.
About 12 crews responded to the Shockoe Slip scene from the Richmond and Henrico County fire departments. Chesterfield County firefighters helped with other city calls while Richmond addressed the Tobacco Company fire, Jones said.
The fire was raised to a three-alarm due to the hot weather, which approached 90 degrees, he said. Richmond fire had already responded to another blaze that morning and wanted to avoid overexerting the crews.
Jones said officials were working to reopen at least one lane of East Cary Street and the entirety of South 12th Street as additional crews left the scene. He said a few would stay to monitor the building and check for any potential flare-ups or hot spots.
Campbell said The Tobacco Company’s owner lives in California and does not plan to travel to assess the damage.
He said the restaurant intends to alert all patrons who placed reservations and help them find other accommodations.