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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2007
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Chick-fil-A damage worse than first report

By Evan Belanger
· evanb@decaturdaily.com
340-2442

A waffle-fry cooker that overheated and caught fire at Decatur’s Chick-fil-A on Aug.1 caused more damage than originally thought.

rebuilding graphic
Restaurant owner Barry Keith said Tuesday that smoke and fire damage to the restaurant on Beltline Road, adjacent to Colonial Mall, was so extensive that he will demolish the building and rebuild.

“They should be starting work by the end of this month,” he said.

The Decatur Planning Commission approved a new site plan for the restaurant during a meeting Tuesday, pending resolution of a parking discrepancy in the plan. Keith said he hopes to have the business reopened by mid-December.

He also said the restaurant will be slightly larger than before and will feature new design innovations from the Chick-fil-A home office, including a stone-and-stucco exterior and more earth tones inside.

“It’s going to be a real nice, upscale facility that we want to give back to the city of Decatur,” said Tom Nolan, Chick-fil-A’s Atlanta-based director of construction.

Reactions to the news that Decatur’s only Chick-fil-A would rebuild was positive from the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, which represents about 1,000 businesses in the area.

Vice President of Public Policy and Business Development Jim Page said Keith has been an important contributor to the community for years.

“We’re thrilled that he’s going to rebuild,” he said. “Not only do we want a Chick-fil-A here, but we want Barry Keith doing business in Decatur.”

Until the business reopens, Keith said, some of his employees have taken jobs at Chick-fil-A restaurants in Huntsville, and he will manage a Chick-fil-A in Cullman.

He said he hopes to be back in Decatur by November to hire employees to staff the rebuilt restaurant.

“Chick-fil-A has been real gracious to me,” he said. “They had an opportunity come available with a guy leaving in Cullman, so I’ll actually be managing that for a couple of months.”

The Chick-fil-A outside the mall has been in operation since 1998.

Decatur firefighters took about 15 minutes to extinguish the blaze that damaged the building beyond repair Aug. 1.

“Smoke was so heavy it was hard to find the fire,” said Battalion Chief Kenneth Johnston.

All 15 employees and customers made it out of the building unharmed.

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