Since a fire shut down Kahuna Grill last week, the restaurant’s owners have been working to clean up the mess and recover from over $100,000 in damage and lost revenue.
The eatery, located in the Camino Real Marketplace, caught fire last Thursday after an exposed wire on a freezer in the rear storage room ignited at approximately 5:45 a.m. Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. Capt. Keith Collum said automatic alarms notified the fire department, while sprinklers slowed the flames until firefighters reached the scene. Collum said they were able to contain the fire after about 30 minutes, but not without costly damage.
Kahuna Grill co-owner Kelly Brown said waking up to an early call from the fire department last week was a fulfillment of every business owner’s nightmare.
“I received a call at 5:55 a.m., and checked the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April Fools’ Day,” Brown said. “I drove as fast as I could to find four fire trucks, and fire, smoke and water coming out the front door.”
Although the damage to the restaurant is significant, Collum said it was not flames that did the most harm to the eatery.
“Smoke damage caused the most problems because [Kahuna Grill] is a food establishment,” he said. “All the food exposed to the smoke had to be disposed of.”
Brown said he expects that the restaurant will closed for three more days, and plans to reopen for business this Friday or Saturday.
“We’ve gutted the restaurant,” Brown said. “We’re running two shifts a day, cleaning everything – new walls, new paint. When we open back up you won’t be able to tell there was ever a fire.”
The estimate for the damage is about $100,000, which includes the cost of repairs inside the restaurant and food that was lost to flame and smoke damage, Brown said. On the day of the fire, damages were estimated at only $15,000, but the combination of repairs and lost sales severely increased the cost.
On an average business day, Brown said, the restaurant grosses about $3,500, so a week of closure certainly does not help its profits. However, he said he and co-owner Dale Dellar are happy that they have a good insurance policy.
“Insurance will cover most of the cost,” Brown said. “We might lose about $5,000 in deductibles. Insurance is one of those things you never want to have to use, but when something like this happens you’re sure glad to have it.”
Brown said he and Dellar, who are both veterans to the restaurant business, opened Kahuna Grill, originally named Surf-Burger, in 2002. Brown is also the majority owner of Natural Cafe, which has 10 locations throughout California including in Goleta and Santa Barbara.
Brown said the 20 displaced Kahuna Grill employees are now working at Natural Cafe restaurants, and will receive “loss of wage” insurance checks.
No adjoining restaurants in Camino Real Marketplace were damaged, and Brown said the fire did not negatively affect any of the surrounding businesses.