ELYRIA, Ohio – Two teenage boys have been arrested in connection with a fire at a building that once housed Uncle Vic’s nightclub. The Elyria building, dating from 1899, was destroyed in a fire that broke out Wednesday night and burned until Thursday morning, according to Elyria Deputy Fire Chief Joe Pronesti.
A 17-year-old has been charged with aggravated arson, failure to report a crime and break and enter. A second 17-year-old has been charged with break and enter.
The two teenagers were arrested and transported to the Lorain County Detention House pending a hearing in juvenile court.
Teams responded at around 8 p.m. at the long-vacant building at 100 Washington Ave., located next to the Robinson Building on Broad Street. Three of the floors of the building were swallowed up when the firefighters arrived.
The building previously housed Uncle Vic’s Night Club, a social hub well known to many.
“It was just so many great memories, so many great people that came along, I mean it was like family,” said Marlene Walker, former owner of Uncle Vic’s and Mardi Gras nightclubs. “I always said it was like Cheers because everyone I knew everyone and it was just a fun time, a fun place and we had a lot of parties.”
Walker and her husband ran the clubs in the 1970s and 1980s and came to see the damage.
“It breaks my heart to see him,” Walker said. “You hate to see something go away when you know it might still be there, but times are changing.”
Other Elyria residents also stopped by, many recalling the good times shared in the building over the years.
“It was like a dance party, you know, getting together and socializing, having a drink, talking and dancing,” said Shantay Chapman, a resident of Elyria.
Pronesti said the teams were on the defensive, putting out the blaze so that it did not spread to the Robinson building, which is separated by a narrow alley.
“The age of the building, the structural integrity before the fire, then during the fire gave us a lot of headaches,” Pronesti said.
Fourteen firefighters on duty did what Pronesti said was a miraculous job of saving the Robinson building and others in front of it. Pronesti said the Robinson Building and a second one nearby are two of the city’s oldest buildings, both dating just after the Civil War.
Around midnight, News 5 photojournalist Mike Vielhaber captured a cloud of smoke surrounding the building.
Firefighters fought the blaze from the outside as the interior of the building was unsafe, with floors wide open and four open wells.
Almost every county fire department responded to help put out the blaze, Pronesti said. No firefighter was injured.
Neighboring businesses have shown support for first responders. Marco Pizza, located on South Abe Road, donated pizza and soft drinks to first responders. McDonald’s in downtown Elyria donated 100 burgers and coffee to first responders.
Crews drew water lines on Broad Street as a precaution to make sure there was enough water to put out the blaze.
After the fire was extinguished at around 3:00 a.m., crews began to demolish the building. The city of Elyria said the demolition will take up to five days, with the cleanup of the area estimated to be two to three weeks.
With the demolition underway and two teenagers in custody, many are thinking about how the space left by the historic building can be used in the future.
“This space? Do you know what I hope to see with this space? Someone build something for the kids, “Chapman said.” An old time of what it was is gone – it’s gone. Let’s do something. Let’s do something better. Let’s do something that uplifts the community. “
Mary Jane Schultz, who lived in the apartments bordering the top floor of the building, shared a similar sentiment.
“I would really love to see something built where we could accommodate teenagers,” Schultz said. “The children are lost, they don’t know what to do. There is really nothing here in Elyria for them.”