A fire started at Good Time Charley’s, a staple student bar and restaurant, at around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night. The Ann Arbor Fire Department responded to the call. 

Charley’s owner Adam Lowenstein told The Michigan Daily that the fire was caused by an outdoor heater being placed too close to the wood soffit on the exterior of the building. 

He said the restaurant’s outdoor seating was full when the fire started, with about 20 patrons dining outdoors. No injuries were reported, according to Lowenstein. 

Lowenstein expressed disbelief that his restaurant might lose its only available seating arrangement, as a temporary COVID-19 order from the state of Michigan implemented Monday limits restaurants to only serving patrons outdoors.

“It’s a shame and it’s comical,” Lowenstein said. “I just can’t believe it.”

Many local restaurants have adapted to the colder temperatures by utilizing outdoor heaters like the one that caught fire at Good Time Charley’s. Local businesses have struggled financially and have had to constantly adapt with the changing COVID-19 conditions.

At 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, The Daily observed a half-dozen firefighters taking apart the restaurant’s roof with chainsaws. According to Lowenstein and a firefighter, this action was taken in an effort to put out possible flames still inside the building. 

Chris Buscemi, an AAFD battalion chief, described the fire department’s response.

“We got the call as a fire reported out, we sent one truck for an (evaluation), discovered there was fire up in the soffit,” Buscemi said. “We upgraded to our next level of response, and we sent two more engines and our rescue to assist.”

Though outdoor heaters are usually safe, Buscemi said this one was likely placed too close to combustible material. 

In a previous interview with The Daily, Chad Feldman, general manager of Good Time Charley’s, explained the precautions the restaurant had made to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.

“We were able to effectively use that space to space our tables so they were outside of the six-foot social distancing mandate,” Feldman said. “We’re looking at winterizing our patios as well as the outdoor bar so that we can continue to generate revenue from those areas.”

Daily Staff Reporter Alec Cohen contributed reporting.

Digital Managing Editor John Grieve can be reached at jgrieve@umich.edu

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