MINNEAPOLIS — While investigators attempt to determine what triggered a fire that gutted Lola on the Lake Fire at Bde Maka Ska early Thursday, the owner and Minneapolis Park Board officials are laying plans to keep food and beverage service going on the popular site.
Crews were dispatched to Lola just before 4 a.m. after reports of fire jumping from the restaurant. Residents near Bde Maka Ska reported hearing a loud boom before the building went up in smoke and flames. .
Lola owner Louis King was awakened by a phone call from an employee telling him the restaurant was on fire. King says whatever caused the blaze disabled the alarm so response was delayed. He tells KARE 11 the biggest thing on his mind is the fate of his employees.
"My biggest concern is my people," King shared. "They had jobs here, this is how they pay their bills and take care of their families. We got kids coming home from college to get summer jobs... it's kinda tough. The building, the business, all that... (pause) but people were counting on this. They have real-time responsibilities.. This is their livelihood. Everything else is secondary."
King paused and turned away, tears rolling down his cheeks.
The Lola on the Lake owner leases the building from the Minneapolis Park and Rec board, who actually owns the structure. Spokesperson Dawn Sommers says the focus right now is to secure the building and assess whether it can be salvaged. At this point there are containment barriers set up by the lake to prevent ash and other pollution from entering the waters of Bde Maka Ska. Sommers adds that the boat launch and watercraft/bike rental facility is closed until further notice.
The Park and Rec board is also working with Louis King on plans to resume food and beverage service for people recreating on the lake. That plan may involve operating out of food trucks and using porta potties.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, although fire officials at the scene tell KARE 11 reporter Kiya Edwards that early assumptions indicate a lightning strike may be responsible.
Officials say the building itself might not be a total loss, but the entire roof will likely need to be replaced. Daylight will help investigators make more accurate damage assessments.
A steady stream of people walked up to look at the damage and tell stories of the building and its history. Among them were Sheffield and Athena Priest, who owned and ran the popular Tin Fish there for 14 years. The couple was awakened by a neighbor's text, and they hustled down from their home just over a mile away to see their old restaurant engulfed in flames.
"This place became the place neighborhood kids, frankly they would check in with us because their parents told them to check in," Athena Priest recalled. "Families gathered, they came with strollers, they came with their dogs, people would come and enjoy the peace that was here. It was a community gathering place. People met friends, they made friends."
Lola on the Lake, which replaced Tin Fish nearly a year ago, is the only location along Lake Bde Maka Ska to purchase food and beverages.