For two decades, St Kilda restaurant Stokehouse has served countless meals, beachside cocktails and hosted many birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and other special occasions. But on Friday night the two-storey building on Jacka Boulevard, which has overlooked the foreshore since the early 1900s, was engulfed in a blaze that firefighters battled all night to put out.
It took more than 70 firefighters over three hours to control it. The fire is said to have been caused by a kitchen fire. More than 200 patrons and staff were safely evacuated. No injuries were reported but the remains of one of Melbourne’s oldest restaurants was torn down on Saturday morning.
On Twitter, Stokehouse management posted a message saying, “Huge thanks to our brilliant staff for evacuating guests safely tonight & thank you for the MSGs of love & support re our beloved Stokehouse.”
Stokehouse owners Frank and Sharon Van Haandel, who have run the restaurant for almost 25 years, are already planning to rebuild the iconic eatery.
A statement released by the Van Haandel Group said that they were “totally devastated”. They also thanked their staff and emergency services for their “professionalism” in evacuating 200 diners safely.
''We have been completely blown away by the incredible generosity, kind words of support and love that we have received from around the world, but particularly from the Australian community, hospitality industry and the Van Haandel Group family,'' the statement read.
The restaurant was renovated just 18 months ago, when the ground floor was revamped into the casual dining area, Stokehouse Cafe.
It is understood that the Stokehouse staff will be spread across the Van Haandel Group’s other Melbourne restaurants. The group also owns Comme, Mr Tulk at the State Library of Victoria, Fatto Bar & Cantina at Hamer Hall and Stokehouse Q in Queensland.
As of Monday, the remnants of the building have been razed to the ground and cleared. Plans are in the works for a rebuild, although an architecture design competition has been ruled out. In the meantime, there is talk of a possible Stokehouse pop-up in the works.
From all of us at Broadsheet, we wish Frank, Sharon and their team our best wishes and support in what must be a very difficult time. And we look forward to visiting a rebuilt Stokehouse in the near future.