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December 04. 2013 9:10PM

No cause yet in Woodshed restaurant fire

MOULTONBOROUGH — It's been a week since the historic Woodshed restaurant on Lee Road burned to the ground, and local and state fire investigators still don't know why it burned.

Finding the cause of a fire in a 19th-century former farmhouse can be difficult and time-consuming, said Fire Chief David Bengtson.

"It can take a while," he said. "There was so much rubble left, and we have to cut through and investigate what's in there."

The owners of the restaurant, which was valued at $401,500 according to town tax records, said they haven't decided yet whether to rebuild. The restaurant burned down on Thanksgiving night in a fire that started just an hour after the last employee had left the building, employees said.

Insurance investigators are also taking time to assess the fire, said Scott Ouellette, one of four new owners who bought the restaurant a little more than a year ago.

"We don't have any answers, all we've found so far is it's a total loss," Ouellette said Wednesday morning.

"I know one thing, no dollar figure can cover what was lost in terms of antiques and collectibles, and in terms of fond memories people have for that restaurant," he said.

Meanwhile, Ouellette said the restaurant's owners have tried to help the restaurant's 40 employees, who were left without work when the building burned down.

Ouellette, who also owns O Steaks and Seafood in Concord and Lakeport, as well as Canoe restaurant in Center Harbor and a catering business, said some of the employees have been aided by local and state aid groups.

Some have been hired at Ouellette's other restaurants, and some will be added to catering events over the holidays, he said.
In addition, one of The Woodshed's main food providers, U.S. Foods, has given employees turkeys, and will be providing many with holiday dinners later this month, Ouellette said.Meanwhile, the Lakes Region Humane Society's annual holiday dinner, scheduled for Monday at The Woodshed, is being rescheduled for later this spring. One of LRHS's primary fundraisers, the dinner always has a record number of supporters and reservations, according chairman Jane Milligan.

"We will be calling each and every one to offer a refund or rain check for a later date," she said in a press release. "Negotiations are currently underway with another suitable facility. We hope to be able to make an announcement of the new date and location very soon."

dseufert@newstote.com


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