A restaurant that’s stood on 8th Street for 45 years is now a shell of its former self.
Fire inspectors and insurance personnel sifted through the charred remains of Bonanza Steakhouse Wednesday.
The building went up in flames the night before, causing an estimated $2 million in damages.
“It’s surreal, sad,” said owner Gary Baba. “You want to come to work and open the doors, but you know you’re not going to do that for a long time.”
Baba, who celebrated 21 years as owner on Feb. 12, got a call about the fire Tuesday night while he was away in Edmonton.
“I got here at four in the morning and couldn’t believe it – you’re thinking, ‘Okay, they’re going to get it under control,’ and then it snowballed,” he explained.
“Looked like it started in the roof somewhere and just, with this old barn-type restaurant, they had a lot of trouble getting in to control the fire.”
Wayne Rodger, a spokesperson for the Saskatoon Fire Department, said the fire started in the kitchen.
“We don’t have enough evidence yet to determine the heat source,” Rodger said.
Matthew Morrison, 22, was one of the more than 50 people who stood outside the restaurant and watched it burn early Wednesday morning.
“The business means a lot to Saskatoon,” he said. “It hit a lot of people hard, knowing that a big landmark in the city is gone.”
Morrison started his first job at Bonanza when he was 15 years old as a busboy and worked his way up to being in charge of food prep.
“When my old boss (Baba) showed up at 4 a.m., that’s when the tears started flowing,” he said.
Marlou Stokvis, 53, showed up Wednesday afternoon to see survey the damage. She’s been coming to the restaurant since she was 14-years-old.
“My kids grew up here, we were just here on Monday,” she said. “I come here every Monday and usually for Sunday brunch.”
Fire officials confirmed the blaze broke out around 10:40 p.m. on Feb. 21. Four engines arrived at the scene within two minutes of the call. The crews had to back out after around 10 minutes as the flames spread.
At that point, the commander on scene called for more resources from another station. After another unsuccessful attempt to get inside the building to fight the fire, crews stationed outside were able to get the situation under control.
The fire was put out sometime after 1 a.m. on Feb. 22. Four hours later, crews were seen rolling away their hoses.
Baba said he’s going to take things day-by-day and still needs to discuss plans with the landlord, but hopes to one day rebuild.
“I’d love to… Bonanza has been here 45 years – could be another 45 years,” he said.
H&M Restaurant is located beside Bonanza. The business was also visibly damaged Wednesday.
– With files from 650 CKOM’s JT Marshall.