In the early morning hours of Monday, May 8, a fire broke out at Reo’s Ribs, causing significant damage to the well-loved barbecue restaurant in a former trolley station at 4211 N.E. Sandy Boulevard in the heart of the Hollywood district.
Portland Fire and Rescue reported the blaze at 3:30 a.m. and other outlets are reporting that neighbors saw people running from the scene. City crews quickly extinguished the fire and the cause of the fire has not been released. The amount of damage has also not been assessed.
Reo’s Ribs is co-owned by Reo Varnado and Myra Girod and opened in the former home of the Hollywood Burger Bar in November of 2015.
At the time of the fire, Varnado was in Los Angeles to tape an episode of Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party. Varnado is an uncle of the show’s host, Snoop Dogg, and a regular guest on the show, sharing recipes and kitchen tips. Before taping the show, Varnado posted a video to his Facebook page.
“I’m very sad this morning, but I can get over it,” said a tearful Varnado. “I want to thank everybody for the support and for sending out their prayers and their shouts. I appreciate it. I’m glad nobody was hurt. I know God is right here with me. I’m going to continue to pray and ask God to wipe away my tears and help me to pull through this and help me to be strong and help me to hang in there. My heart is sad, but there’s still joy and happiness. I’m not going to give up. I’m not done yet and I’ll be back. It’s hard, but everything’s going to be all right.”
By 9:00 a.m. on the morning of the fire, crews from Statewide Fire Restoration had boarded the windows, patched the roof and cleaned up most of the water damage and debris on the corner lot. TriMet service to the stop west of Varnado’s restaurant was restored by 10:00 a.m.
Because of the unusual size and shape of the small corner lot – the roof of the building overhangs the property line in several locations – redevelopment could be challenging, but property owner Leon Drennan, who grew up in the neighborhood and graduated from Grant High School, says he is determined to rebuild.
“It’s too soon to know, for sure, what our possibilities will be,” said Drennan. “Half of the building is absolutely gutted. Our hope is to bring Reo and Myra back and to restore the building in the same location with the same design. If there’s any way at all to reconstruct and to do that, we will.”
The fire has also temporarily closed the offices of Elena MacPhee and Amy Seaholt at Rose City Realtors.
We’ll be out until reconstruction is complete,” said MacPhee. “So far, the architects, engineers and insurance folks have all been very positive, so we are hopeful that we’ll be able to rebuild. We love that little building and the whole Hollywood neighborhood. It’s the perfect space for us. I sent a thank you card to the fire department. I feel like they did their jobs so well that we were very fortunate not to have had more damage than we did.”
The property has been the site of at least one other fire. A stove-hood blaze closed Craig and Inka Elliott’s burger bar for five weeks almost ten years ago.
Neighbors, family and friends are hopeful that Varnado will be able to rebuild and reopen and are looking for ways to help. They began hanging flowers and signs of encouragement on the chain link fence surrounding the property the following day. A benefit was held at New Song Community Church in the Eliot neighborhood on May 27 and two GoFundMe pages have been launched at www.gofundme.com/rebuild-reos-ribs and www.gofundme.com/support-the-employees-of-reos-ribs.