By MATT HOPF
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Dining, drinks and demolition. That's what Vickie Fitzsimmons called Saturday at Fitz's on 4th, as its neighbor to the north, the Newcomb Hotel, waited for a wrecking ball after a five-alarm fire late Friday night.
Fitzsimmons, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Jeff, was taking plenty of phone calls from customers who wanted to know if the restaurant at 129 S. Fourth would be open Saturday.
The restaurant had closed Friday night after the fire broke out.
"I ran in and got people to move their cars out of our parking lot, because I figured the fire trucks would be coming," Vickie Fitzsimmons said. "Then a firefighter came in and said, ‘If you don't need to be in here, I suggest you leave.' So we got staff out and everybody out and basically just locked up."
The Fitzsimmonses are thankful the wind wasn't blowing in the restaurant's direction Friday night.
"If it had blown from the north, we would have been done," Vickie Fitzsimmons said.
Mark Neiswender, owner of The Patio, a restaurant on the first floor of the Elkton Hotel, said members of his staff called everyone who made reservations to let them know the eatery would be open Saturday.
"We have probably 50, 60 reservations, and we've had a lot of calls that didn't have reservations," he said. "They just asked if we were open. Curiosity seekers, maybe? I don't know. We appreciate them coming."
Power for the two restaurants was out for about an hour Saturday afternoon so Ameren Illinois could complete repair work.
"Hopefully, it will come on pretty quick," Neiswender said. "We have a big catering event, and one of our ovens is a convection oven, and it won't work unless the power is on."
Electric service for the Elkton, which has apartments upstairs, had been cut Friday evening to prevent damage during the fire. Power lines for apartment residents run alongside the building.
Residents were given the option to go the Kroc Center during the electric outage, but fire officials said few took up the offer.
Diagonally across Maine Street from the blaze, 80 residents of the Lincoln-Douglas Apartments were evacuated to the Quincy Senior and Family Resource Center on Friday night.
Dorothy Liehr, 95, had been outside with other residents of the senior housing center, watching as the Newcomb Hotel burned.
"We were watching it, and it seemed all of a sudden, it just shot up," she said.
About 9:30 p.m., dense smoke began to cover the area.
"It was pretty hard to breathe, and when we came back home this morning, as soon as we stepped in, you could smell that smoke," Liehr said.
Lincoln-Douglas residents were allowed back in their apartments about 8 a.m. Saturday.
Liehr said she didn't get much sleep Friday night, but "the Red Cross took care of us very nicely," she said.