By Becky Billingsley
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, Murrells Inlet - Before the flames were extinguished in the fire that devastated half of Dead Dog Saloon on the Murrells Inlet waterfront, its owners and managers were planning its reconstruction.
Dead Dog manager, Peter Haentjens, and John Campbell, son of Dead Dog owner Charlie Campbell, already called their building contractor and architect as the structure was still burning in the fire that was called in at 4:17 a.m. today. The initial speculation is that the fire started in the outdoor bar facing the Murrells Inlet Marshwalk.
The Marshwalk is undamaged. However, the north end of Dead Dog Saloon is devastated.
"The kitchen equipment held up," Haentjens said at 8:30 a.m. "The south deck is standing, and the bathrooms are working."
The north end of the restaurant is burned up, including the indoor bar/dining area and the north deck that wraps around a 200-year-old live oak tree. Haentjens said fire fighters poured water into a hole in the tree for five minutes in an effort to help save it; now the live oak is blackened with most of its leaves burned away. An arborist has been called to come see if it can be saved.
UPDATE: The live oak tree in the deck cannot be saved.
But more of concern to Haentjens and Campbell are their employees whose income will be affected by Dead Dog Saloon being out of business until it can be rebuilt.
"It's just a building," Haentjens said. "Thank goodness no one was hurt, no firefighters were injured. But this will affect 50 families who depend on Dead Dog for their livelihoods. Other Marshwalk restaurant owners have already pledged their support, especially David Owens."
Owens owns the restaurant next door called Capt. Dave's Dockside Restaurant.
Since the kitchen equipment was not affected by the fire, there is a lot of food product that will go to waste if it isn't soon moved out of the structure. Haentjens and Campbell said they plan to give it to their employees. Their employees, they said, should come to the restaurant as soon as possible today to come get the food.
The Dead Dog building was rebuilt in 1991 in the wake of Hurricane Hugo. It was Anchovies Restaurant at the time; it became Dead Dog Saloon in 2002.
"We've been in this location 10 years," Haentjens said. "We'll have our 10-year anniversary in May."
The men are hoping to establish a temporary reopening plan by summer, perhaps with a mobile kitchen, so their employees can get back to work.
"We will be back," Haentjens said. "We'll try and get something up and running by summer, and we'll be fully back by the end of the year. It will be the same Dead Dog we had before, just rebuilt."