Residents say downtown Portsmouth will 'never be the same' after blaze destroys bar
PORTSMOUTH - At least two buildings in downtown Portsmouth are a total loss after an overnight fire ignited inside a local bar.
Fire officials said the fire broke out at 286 State Street at 12:30 Monday morning, in the kitchen area of the State Street Saloon.
Both the bar and the apartments above it were a total loss. Residents said without the saloon, downtown Portsmouth is forever changed.
“State Street is no longer State Street," said Steve Leighton. "That’s the bottom line. You can’t reproduce it. The way this town has gone, it’s never going to be the same.”
Leighton said he's lived in an apartment above Louie's restaurant for the last 8 years, right next door to the saloon. He was at work when the blaze caught and returned home to a dramatic scene.
“Smoke was just coming out of every window. I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t get many answers from anyone, and it didn’t look like any flames," he said.
The apartments in the area of 86-92 Pleasant Street, including Leighton's, also had smoke and water damage.
The co-owner of Louie's expressed support and sympathies with his friends at the saloon.
“We’re the fortunate ones. Our building is still standing," R.J. Joyce said. “We love those guys. They’re neighbors and friends. You never want to see that happen to anyone, but they’re amazing people, you especially don’t want to see that happen [to them].”
Portsmouth Fire Chief Steven Achilles said fire crews from more than 40 communities in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts battled the fire. They worked well into the afternoon Monday to put out hot spots and assess damage.
They were able to get everyone out of all the buildings on the block, and no serious injuries were reported.
“That’s what it’s about. Getting everybody out of the buildings safely, and we’re talking today without any injuries or fatalities," Achilles said.
Crews rescued one resident from a third floor apartment, and one Stratham firefighter who was struck in the shoulder with a hose.
Once the flames were out, 276 State Street was gutted but is still standing, for now.
“We believe at this point that it’s safe to work in right now, but I believe they’ll have to be further evaluation on the viability of that building," Achilles said. “There is a chance (it will be demolished). I know that the property owners along with their contractors along with the city will determine that.”
Fire officials are also working with city leaders to clear debris and reopen State and Pleasant streets, which remained closed Monday evening.
Locals who came to see the damage said the State Street Saloon will be sorely missed, and they hope the owners consider rebuilding.
“I feel bad for everyone," Leighton added. "This is a staple of Portsmouth that can’t be replaced."