Students back on campus will have one fewer neighborhood haunt as The Heights Bar & Grill is starting the new semester with closed doors.
More than a week after a six-alarm fire caused serious damage to the 111th Street Citibank next door, the popular bar remains closed, the smell of smoke still permeating the establishment.
“It’s going to be a while, a couple weeks at least, maybe even a couple of months,” Feras Samad, owner of The Heights, said about when The Heights will be prepared to welcome patrons.
Samad said the extended closing is due primarily to severe water damage at the main bar and a lack of heat throughout the building. Smoke damage has also played a role in the prolonged closure.
“Anything that was in here had to be thrown away—all liquor, all foods. We can’t keep anything,” said Samad, explaining that this is a Health Department requirement regarding ingredients’ exposure to smoke.
Soot and smoke from the fire have also damaged the ceiling in the main bar, which has been removed in anticipation of replacement.
Samad’s Gourmet, the deli on the ground floor of The Heights that Samad also owns, sustained damage from the fire as well, but it has already reopened.
“They had less water damage down there. It was mainly smoke damage,” said Samad. “They cleaned it up pretty quickly and replaced all their items.”
While contractors and insurance representatives have already visited the buildings and given estimates, The Heights is unlikely to reopen in the immediate future, leaving a five-dollar-margarita-shaped hole in Morningside.
On the morning of the fire, which burned for more than 30 hours and injured three firefighters and four civilians, The Heights management was quickly made aware that something was amiss.
“Our porter called me up around 5:15 a.m. on Saturday morning and told me ‘There is a little smoke coming through the bricks,’” Samad said. “It looked like someone was smoking a cigarette through the wall, like little puffs of smoke.”
Samad was contacting the fire department when he noticed smoke filling the Citibank, with which The Heights shared a wall. By the next day, the Citibank was almost completely destroyed.
While The Heights still requires significant repairs, Samad is effusive about the assistance that the city government has been providing.
“The City of New York has been great,” he said. “They have a small business bureau that manages services for small businesses, and they have reached out to us from day one, trying to help us with any permits that we need, help expedite things. I must say, it’s nice to see, and I didn’t expect that.”