Cleveland business re-opens, thanks firefighters - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cleveland business re-opens, thanks firefighters

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CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) - It disappointed the Cleveland community when one of its family-owned restaurants was destroyed by flames this winter. But now Stadium BBQ is rising from the ashes with the goal of making local firefighters feel appreciated for their service.

Three months after the devastating fire, Stadium BBQ is re-opening in a new location at 773 Keith Street, but first they want to thank the firefighters who responded to that December morning.

A neighbor captured iPhone video in the early morning hours of December 10th as Stadium BBQ went up in flames. Fire investigators say a malfunction on the smoker caused natural gas to leak out, and that caused an explosion. Losing the kitchen put them out of business.  

"We can't go eat, we can't go fill up gas, can't do anything without someone stopping us and saying 'heard about the fire when are you going to reopen," Stadium BBQ co-owner Keith Porter said.

The responding firefighters that morning were also regular customers. They kept the flames from spreading to the area with most of the irreplaceable sports memorabilia.

"When the fire actually happened, they were great," Porter said.

"We try to save everybody's stuff but when it's locally owned and operated, that holds a dear spot in our hearts. It was a disappointment to hear it was burnt to where they couldn't re-open that one," Cleveland Firefighter Buddy Ford said.

But now it's all smiles as Stadium BBQ re-opens about half a mile up the road. A charred board hangs above the entrance as a reminder of what they've overcome. The owners' first priority is to thank those firefighters who risked their lives for their business.

"We see the firefighters and the police everyday doing their duty but we don't think to take that opportunity to thank them but it's when you are affected by something you really want to find that opportunity," Stadium BBQ co-owner Barry Schuch said.

"Not very often we do get thanks and when we do and it's with food, we're very appreciative," Ford said.

Thursday afternoon they fed the firefighters for free as a thank you.

"They're taking care of the first responders and that's very nice. We're very happy for them and I think the whole community is happy to see them open back up," Cleveland Firefighter Donnie Sherlin said.

The restaurant opens its doors to the public Friday, March 21st.

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