BEACH HAVEN — Restoration continues three months after a fire ripped through a historic inn and restaurant on Centre Street.
Owner Sondra Beninati said the Easter Sunday fire caused more than $1 million in damage to The Gables inn and restaurant, which remains closed.
The fire was ruled accidental by the Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office.
Beninati and her husband, Steve, had hoped to reopen the historic landmark Memorial Day weekend. When that didn’t happen, they set their sights on the July 4 holiday. But as August begins, work continues at the business.
Six years ago, the couple spent $3 million restoring the building that dates to 1887.
Beninati said they are hoping to reopen the doors soon, but she added that they need the permit process for restoring the building to go smoothly and quickly.
“We’re just looking forward to seeing everyone again. We miss working together and we’ve been a part of people’s weddings, anniversaries and birthdays here,” she said.
The fire didn’t just interrupt lodging and dining business this summer. The Gables lost three weddings and had to reschedule remaining nuptials at other nearby venues on Long Beach Island, Beninati said.
“We’ve had weddings all over the island, at Surf City Yacht Club, Haven Beach Yacht Club and the Williams Cottage Inn, and they’ve all gone flawlessly,” she said.
When the fire started, The Gables was in the height of its dinner hour with about 70 seated diners. Now the dining room is being used for storage while contractors replace walls and lay new flooring on the first floor that was damaged when the blaze was battled in April.
“As soon as all the Sheetrock is done, we can start counting down the days,” Beninati said.
Plumbing, electricity and air-conditioning work is now being completed, to be followed by painting and wallpapering, she said.
General contractor James Tallent, of Beach Haven, said about 20 subcontractors have been working since two weeks after the fire to put the inn and restaurant back together.
The rainy weather this past spring contributed to delays in finishing the work, Tallent said. In 2006, Tallent was general contractor for the Beninatis’ first restoration. And on Easter Sunday, Tallent — who is also a volunteer firefighter in Beach Haven — rode the first firetruck to The Gables to battle the blaze, he said.
“I remember I was most upset when I was standing there looking at The Gables after the fire was put out. I was thinking to myself, ‘I’m probably going to have to rebuild this,’” he said.
When Tallent restored The Gables in 2006, everything was built to the most recent code standards so when the fire burned the building it didn’t spread as badly as it might have, he said.
“We had to do a lot of work to bring the building up to the proper code, and it’s a good thing that we did,” he said.
According to its website, a grand re-opening celebration is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 21, and it will begin accepting dining reservations Aug. 23 and lodging reservations Aug. 26.
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