OCI will reopen, owners say

By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 


Akitchen fire sent about 30 customers scurrying out of a popular Nutley pub last Saturday evening, Nov. 15.

Cause of the blaze at the Old Canal Inn, 2 E. Passaic Ave., which went to two alarms, is listed as “accidental,” triggered by an issue related to “ventilation of cooking equipment,” according to Nutley Deputy Fire Chief Paul Cafone.

No injuries to firefighters or civilians were reported, he said.

The bar and rear dining area remain shuttered for now but Mark Conca, who owns and runs the place with brothers Phil, Ralph and Danny, has pledged to restore it and reopen as soon as they can.

“We hope to get the front bar open in seven to 10 days,” Conca said last week. “But the kitchen and restaurant, we’re talking maybe three to six months. The Nutley and Bloomfield firefighters confined the fire to the back of the building and that’s what saved us.”

Cafone said the fire started in the kitchen area, above the ceiling between the “void” (concealed) space and the roof and then spread into the rear dining room between the ceiling and the roof.

Fire damage was pretty much confined to the kitchen area and the rear dining room.

Tenants who live above the bar in the four-family, three-story wood frame structure were compelled to evacuate their apartments after the building was deemed uninhabitable by the township’s code enforcement unit but, eventually, they were allowed to return after fire inspections of apartments were made during the week, according to Cafone.

Cafone said that the initial alarm of fire came in at 5:49 p.m. through central station and the Nutley career firefighters responded aboard an engine and a ladder truck while the Nutley fire volunteers arrived in two engines.

Nutley Fire Lt. Chris Loman, who was among the first responders, quickly called in a second alarm and, Bloomfield Fire Department – summoned under the township’s mutual aid agreement – came with an engine and ladder truck, Cafone said.

Fire units from Montclair and Lyndhurst provided stand-by service, he added.

Cafone estimated that, all told, 41 firefighters from Nutley and Bloomfield fought the blaze which was declared under control by 7:30 p.m.

PSE&G sent a crew to shut off the utilities in the building , he said.

Despite the hardship that’s befallen the tavern, Mark Conca took some solace in the fact that the fire started when it did. “We had a full house of dinner reservations scheduled for a 7:30 [p.m.] serving,” he said, noting that the situation could’ve been a lot worse if the fire had broken out then.

The pub building is believed to be over 100 years old and has been operating as a tavern, at least since 1934 when members of the Skorupski family of Bloomfield took it over until selling it to the Conca brothers in 2011.

Part of the property straddles the Bloomfield border and it is said that the bar’s shuffleboard court, technically, sits on the Bloomfield property line.

Nutley Mayor Alphonse Petracco, himself a business owner, said he empathized for the owners who, he said, were “childhood friends.”

Conca insisted that he and his brothers were committed to “restore OCI.”

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