Capital Ale House Roof Collapses Into Dining Room

by | Jun 29, 2015 | News

By Susan Larson. Photos 1 – 5 copyright Robert A. Martin for Fredericksburg Today. Photo 6 provided by the Fredericksburg Fire Department.

The roof of Capital Ale House, 917 Caroline St., Fredericksburg, collapsed into the center dining room at about 3:30 p.m. Saturday, June 27, 2015.

“Staff noticed water coming through with the ceiling buckling, and they told all the customers to get out right away,” said Matt Simmons, owner. The roof collapsed just behind them, he said. “I’m proud of the employees who saw it and acted so quickly.”

No one was injured.

(Editor’s Note: Simmons did not have the staff member names handy at the time of the interview, but promised to forward them for a follow-up story.)

Capital Ale has been in the building, owned by Joe Wilson, since 2007. The center, flat-roofed section where the roof collapsed is the main dining area. It was built in the mid-20th century, Simmons said.

The front A-frame front section, where the bar is located, was built about 1809, according to Fredericksburg Deputy Fire Chief Mike Jones. The rear kitchen section is also believed to pre-date the Civil War.

“It was the newer, flat roofed section that collapsed,” Simmons said. He speculated water might have accumulated on the roof from storms passing through the area. Deputy Chief Jones agreed. “The collapse came just as heavy rain was passing through the city,” he said. The exact cause, however, is under investigation.

Emergency responders and restaurant staff did not know how many people were in the restaurant at the time of the collapse. Deputy Chief Jones said it was a “good crowd,” larger than a normal Saturday afternoon because of the rain.

“The structural engineer will have to assess the stability of the walls and remaining roof before anyone else can enter the structure,” Jones said.

Simmons will meet with insurance representatives, structural engineers and contractors on Monday. He plans to rebuild and reopen in the same location. “We’ll be closed for at least 30 days,” he said.

A grand re-opening celebrating the quick-thinking action of the staff is in order.

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