Benny’s set to reopen at the end of June

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

Benny’s Restaurant will soon be open for business again, bouncing back from a fire last summer that caused them to shut down for what was labelled an indefinite period of time. Though they were hoping to open June 15, owner Dino Damianakis said they are now aiming to have a soft opening at the end of June.

The road to reopening was a stressful one, Damianakis explained. After the fire, which occurred on July 21 of last year, the two insurance companies that were involved with the business had to go through a process that lasted four or five months, at which point winter had already set in.

“But the time has just been flying by here because it’s a stressful time when you’re dealing with insurance, especially with a claim of this size,” he said.

Damianakis estimated the total claim to be $900,000 to $1 million.

Next in line was the roof, which was completed by the end of January. By early February, they were working on the interior of the restaurant.

According to Damianakis, they’ve attempted to modernize the restaurant through the renovations. The dining area, foyer and bar area have all been redone as well as a change of colour scheme and new signs.

“Basically the whole interior is finished. What we’re waiting for now is the different trades to come in and do all our hook ups.”

He’s hoping that will be completed in the next few weeks, at which point they’ll do their soft opening.

“We’ll have a grand opening after a few weeks, I believe, once we’ve got all the kinks and everything out of the system.”

They are thinking of doing it after the August long weekend, to give his staff a chance to orient themselves ¾ he added that he’s getting back around half of his old staff.

“By and large it’s going to run real smooth, it’s just a matter of organizing it all to go,” he said.

Recalling the night of the fire, Damianakis said: “I was in the back office and I was oblivious to anything that was going on. And it was 1:30 in the morning. I think it was a student that was passing by and they started seeing flames shooting out of the top corner and immediately dialed 911.”

By the time Damianakis realized what was going on outside, the fire department was already working on extinguishing the fire.

“It was definitely pretty stressful. And then of course I was concerned about a lot of my staff, they needed work. I’m happy to say there weren’t too many hardships amongst all of them.”

According to Damianakis, the origin of the fire was a broken coupling that was attached to their neon sign. With extreme winds that the city was experiencing that day and electrical current still running through the sign, the roof eventually caught on fire.

Though it’s taken almost a year, Damianakis said he’s optimistic about their reopening.

“I’m hoping I get all my customers back. I’ve had a lot of customers dropping by just to say hi and check the place out. Everybody’s been very optimistic and they love the new look.”

He’s also looking forward to having students back in town again.

“I think the buzz and everything that’s been created here, it’ll carry us for the first few months and then I’m hoping everything just rolls right back to where it was.”

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