On Tuesday, a demolition crew went to work on the charred Ocean View Restaurant. A fire burned through the restaurant in March. The Oak Bluffs Fire Department, joined by fire crews from across the Vineyard, beat down the fire and prevented it from spreading elsewhere. On Monday, Jake Wark, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Fire Services, told The Times that a fire investigation uncovered nothing suspicious.
“The joint investigation by local and state fire investigators did not reach a conclusive determination, but the fire has been ruled unintentional, with no evidence that it was suspicious or intentionally set,” Wark wrote. “One potential factor was an electrical event in the attic just above the main entrance, where there was significant structural damage.”
A fire investigation report obtained by The Times largely echoed Wark’s statement. “It is the collective opinion of the investigators that the area or origin was in the ceiling of the lobby/hostess area, inside the main entrance to the building,” the report states. “Further, it is the collective opinion of the investigators that this fire was accidental in nature, with the most likely cause being [an] unspecified electrical event. There is no evidence of criminal activity at this time. This case will remain undetermined.”
Michael Santoro, owner of the restaurant, previously praised the firefighting effort and vowed he would rebuild the restaurant. Charles Hajjar, owner of the property, previously also said the place would be rebuilt. On Tuesday, Santoro affirmed his prior statement. He said both he and Hajjar are committed to rebuilding the restaurant. Hajjar is also considering putting employee housing atop the new restaurant, Santoro said. Oak Bluffs architect Chuck Sullivan is working on the design and permitting for the new restaurant, Santoro said. Given supply chain and other issues in the construction environment, Santoro said completion of a new restaurant probably won’t occur until the spring of 2024.
The Ocean View demolition began with an excavation and capping of the restaurant’s sewer line. An excavator then began to eat into the multichambered restaurant, tearing up its charred guts: lumber, wiring, chairs, pipes, pots — even king-size bottles of salad dressing. The work was constantly hosed down to arrest dust. One jar of what appeared to be red peppers exploded from the force of the excavator, and showered the demolition crew with red, glistening bits. Santoro said he expects the demolition to wrap up by Thursday at the latest.
Ron and Peggy Jackson, owners of the restaurant before Santoro, observed part of the demolition. More than once, as a section of the restaurant was torn away, Peggy Jackson would remind her husband it was something he’d built. She later said, “It wasn’t easy” to see the restaurant getting leveled. Santoro said the Jacksons ran the Ocean View for over 35 years, while he had it for only eight years, so when the sign was taken down ahead of the demolition, he gave it to them.
“Yes, we have the sign, and we love it,” Peggy Jackson said. “It meant a lot to us, actually. I thank him very much.” She said the sign was crafted in the 1980s by Oak Bluffs woodworker Peter Dawley.
“It was only right,” Santoro said about giving the sign. “I inherited their legacy.” Santoro said the Ocean View was like “the Cheers of Oak Bluffs — a lot of memories there.”