GRAYTON BEACH — The State Fire Marshal's Office said Tuesday it is still trying to determine the cause, nature and origin of The Red Bar & Piccolo's Restaurant fire that destroyed one of South Walton's iconic bars last week.
Sammy Sanchez, the fire marshal with the South Walton Fire District, said Tuesday it appears the Feb. 13 fire started in the front dining area. Sanchez said last week that electric problems might have been a factor.
The Red Bar at 70 Hotz Ave. opened in the 1960s when the community was just a quiet beach town.
A group of friends bought the building, which was then a country store. It also had two gas pumps, a washateria and a game room.
The new owners kept the building operating as a convenience store for a while, although they built a small bar for themselves onto the back. They enjoyed it until authorities discovered it and shut it down.
The former store was leased out over the decades, including a stint in the 1980s as the popular Paradise Café. Brothers Oliver and Phillippe Petit bought the bar in 1995.
Since then, The Red Bar had been a popular hangout for locals and tourists. It’s widely known for its eclectic character, dedication to hosting local musicians, big Sunday crowds and bloody marys.
The business received national attention last week after photos and videos of the rubble and ashes spread across social media.
South Walton Fire District crews discovered heavy smoke and flames coming from inside the bar and eatery when they arrived after the blaze was reported about 5:30 a.m. Despite battling strong winds, the fire was under control within 30 minutes.
Sanchez said the building collapsed as firefighters battled the blaze. A portion of the bar’s gift shop was the only part remaining.
Property damage has been estimated to be between $350,000 and $500,000.
The Petit brothers say they plan to rebuild the bar to its original specifications.