New video released showing Cheeburger Cheeburger collapse
It’s been two years since a staple downtown Chattanooga restaurant was forced to shut down.
Charlie and Renee Eich owned Cheeburger Cheeburger on Market Street for nearly two decades.
The couple will never forget the day the building partially collapsed. In fact, Charlie captured the moment it came crumbling to the ground on his cell phone.
For the first time, he’s sharing that video with Channel 3’s Lori Mitchell.
“Wow, what I’m seeing is our entire life that we created disappear right before our eyes in a matter of seconds,” Charlie told Channel 3 as he watched the video again.
Fortunately, no one was inside the building at the time. That's because of a decision the Eichs made that likely saved lives.
They closed their business as a precaution after a building inspector warned them about structural problems a couple of days earlier.
On the day of the collapse, Charlie and Renee were waiting inside a nearby restaurant to meet with a structural engineer from Knoxville who specialized in old buildings.
When the engineer arrived, Charlie walked by the building and noticed it had shifted more even more.
“My truck was parked right there so I went and moved it and as I was walking back around the building I could actually see movement at that point in time. I said watch out guys it’s getting ready to go and I pulled my phone out of my back pocket,” Charlie said.
He captured the collapse on his cell phone as people nearby watched in disbelief.
Renee was still in the restaurant next door and said she didn’t hear or feel anything. When someone told her the building collapsed, she thought it was a joke until she went outside to see for herself.
“I ran out and I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t see anything. It was just a fog. It was terrifying,” Renee told Channel 3.
“I got the biggest hug I’ve ever gotten,” Charlie laughed.
The Eichs say they have moved on. They opened a new restaurant last summer, River Drifters on Suck Creek Road. Customers can rent stand-up paddle boards or kayaks, sing karaoke on Friday nights, take advantage of live entertainment on Saturday nights, free parking and a deck overlooking the Tennessee River. The menu still includes their famous cheeseburger.
“I still answer the phone sometimes, Cheeburger Cheeburger,” laughed Charlie.
Customers include bicyclists, motorcyclists, kayakers, climbers, hikers and people vacationing in Chattanooga who used to dine at Cheeburger Cheeburger before the building collapsed.
“I’ve learned that everything happens for a reason. We’re here. We’ve got a new place. We’re enjoying life. We picked back up. Our friends supported us. I learned that there was a lot of love. It’s been a wild ride for sure,” Charlie told Channel 3.
The City of Chattanooga later tore down the rest of the partially collapsed building because officials said it was a safety issue. The lot now sits empty, and a fence was placed around the property to keep the public out of the space.
After the collapse, lawsuits were filed by the property owner and by Eich.
They focus on what led to the collapse and who is responsible. The couple won’t comment on the litigation but say they are “ready for it to come to an end” and that could take years.
They aren’t scheduled to go to court again until 2020.