The Aftermath of Equinox’s Friday Morning Fire
The ceiling to the private dining and wine room was destroyed.
Ellen Kassoff Gray believes three things prevented the early morning fire at Equinox from destroying the well-regarded restaurant: an in-house fire alarm system, the weekly degreasing of the kitchen's hood, and an alert security guard who smelled smoke around 3 a.m.
Just the weekly hood cleaning alone probably "saved us from total loss," says the co-owner and general manager. "If they didn't do that, [the restaurant] would have ignited" from the grease.
Regardless, the D.C. Fire Department estimates the damage to Equinox at between $30,000 and $40,000.
This afternoon, as chef and co-owner Todd Gray was prepping for dinner at Aria Trattoria in the Ronald Reagan Building, where Equinox will be temporarily housed during repairs, Kassoff Gray remained at the downtown restaurant to field calls, direct work crews, and deal with fire and insurance representatives.
While the damage is relatively minor compared to what might have been, Kassoff Gray was still painfully aware of the loss she and her husband did suffer. She figures they lost about $15,000 worth of wine from the private dining room (pictured above). They have lost the use of their kitchen for who knows how long, and they've lost power, which worries Kass0ff Gray as the winter storm rolls in tonight.
And who knows yet what's still salvageable from the kitchen: dishes? pots? pans? Smoke may have ruined much of the dishware and equipment permanently. Then there's the dining rooms, which the Grays just renovated about 18 months ago. The relatively new carpets were soaked with water from the firefighting crews. Blowers, connected to power outlets outside the restaurant, were trying to dry the carpets out.
But there's one thing that Todd and Ellen Gray didn't lose today, and that's business. Five cars pulled up to Equinox around 7 a.m. today, just an hour after the last fire department unit had left, and started transporting ingredients to Aria, where Todd Gray had moved a major Christmas party planned for 11:30 this morning. The party was for 65 people.
"He didn't let the fire deter him," Kassoff Gray says. "I know it sounds corny heroic...but he didn't want to let them down."
The Grays will continue to work out of Aria until the city allows the couple to reopen Equinox. All employees will continue to work at the downstairs dining room at Aria during the transition; the temporary room holds about 65-70 people, whereas Equinox holds about 85.
More pictures after the jump.
Crews were trying to repair one of the two generators damaged during the fire.
Ellen Kassoff Gray handled damage control at Equinox while Todd Gray cooked for customers at Aria in the Ronald Reagan Building.
The ceiling in the kitchen is ruined. The stove and hood, where the fire apparently started, are behind this dish shelf and prep table.
The ceiling as seen looking out from the kitchen.
Kassoff Gray isn't sure how much of the kitchen equipment, including the dishware, is salvageable. The good news is that the couple's insurance should cover all their loses.
Industrial blowers were brought in to help dry out the soaked carpets.
Dining room tables (in the back of this picture) were being used to hold wine bottles and other items saved from the fire scene.
Crews dined on take-out pizza while trying to restore power at Equinox. "It was the first time pizza has ever been delivered to Equinox," Kassoff Gray says.
The extension chord provided the only power available at Equinox this afternoon.