Locals and visitors react to fire at popular Folly Beach restaurant

Snapper Jacks Thursday after fire rips through rooftop bar area (Source: Live 5)
Snapper Jacks Thursday after fire rips through rooftop bar area (Source: Live 5)

FOLLY BEACH, SC (WCSC) - An overnight fire ripped through the rooftop patio of a popular restaurant on Folly Beach, leaving residents and visitors at a loss for words.

Firefighters were called to Snapper Jacks on Ashley Avenue and Center Street around 12 a.m. Crews found flames tearing through the outdoor rooftop bar.

"The damage is mostly to the upper deck and some minor water damage on the lower levels," said Folly Beach Fire Assistant Chief Steve Mims.

Cleaning crews were seen around 9 a.m. for the water removal, while engineers were on scene throughout the day surveying the damage.

"It was huge," Susan White said. "No way you could miss [the flames] from over here or over there."

Thursday afternoon Mims said the cause of the fire is undetermined, but officials are still investigating.

Now the business is temporarily closed as repair work gets underway.

"I'm disappointed," said Brian Ryckman, of Indiana, who was at the restaurant earlier this week. "I came for a beer and some oysters and I guess I'm not getting either one."

A video from an onlooker captured early Thursday morning shows the flames flying off the rooftop bar area.

"Oh, my!" Ryckman reacted to the video.

The owners of the restaurant said there's minimal damage, and the fire was confined to one corner of the rooftop and didn't affect the bar area.

After viewing the video Ryckman was surprised there wasn't more damage to the building.

"Pretty bad fire from the video," said Jack Branch, a manager of a nearby parking lot. "I think the Folly Beach Fire Department did an excellent job of saving the building."

Branch has a clear view of the restaurant all day long because of where he works.

"It's unfortunate," he said. "Bad timing with Mother's Day weekend coming up."

"I think the Snappers group has it covered for now," said Gregory Bunn, who says he works at the restaurant. "They've got a pretty good head on their shoulders overall."

Bunn said he's a host in training and was there Wednesday night before the fire.

"It's really nuts," he said. "I got off around 10, 10:30 last night and everything seemed fine. Everybody seemed to be leaving Snappers."

Meanwhile, Folly Beach resident Chris Fitzgerald and his fiancé planned to host around 100 people inside Snapper Jack's Thursday night for their wedding rehearsal dinner.

"We figured with the rooftop deck it would be fun just for everybody to hang out before the wedding," he said.

The couple's rehearsal dinner plans were canceled, due to the fire.

"When I saw it online, I didn't quite believe it," Fitzgerald said.

After following news reports, he drove to the seafood restaurant and bar to assess the damage himself. Fitzgerald soon called loved ones to share the news. The couple has since located another venue to host Thursday evening's scheduled event.

The owners of the restaurant hope to have the main dining area open by this weekend, and the rooftop in the next two to three weeks.

"I think that's incredible if they can do it that quick," Branch said.

Mims added the business had closed around 45 minutes prior to the emergency call. Officials said no one was inside the restaurant when the fire broke out. The investigation may take time to determine the actual cause.

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