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The Daily Tar Heel

La Residence will reopen in December following electrical fire

La Residence Restaurant will be closed until December following a fire on June 12.

According to the official Chapel Hill Fire Department report, a Chapel Hill police officer on patrol reported fire and smoke coming from the site at approximately 6 a.m. Responders managed to put out the fire within 40 minutes. The fire damaged half of the kitchen, and smoke damage to the rest of the site was extensive.

John Gualtieri, the operations manager of La Residence, said the fire was caused by a window air conditioning unit in the kitchen that short-circuited and caught fire.

Frances Gualtieri, owner of La Residence, said the smoke damage destroyed a number of irreplaceable items that the restaurant had collected throughout its 40-year operation.

“It’s kind of heartbreaking right now,” she said. 

Frances Gualtieri is looking forward to reopening the site later this year, though she said the half-million dollars currently being spent in repairs are daunting.

John Gualtieri said they are updating the building’s fire suppression capabilities, which include a full sprinkler system. They are also renovating their patio space with the help of the Chapel Hill Planning Department. 

John Gualtieri said the community has been helpful in the wake of the incident.

“The other restaurants have been really gracious with helping us — with our staff, and taking people on,” he said.

John Gualtieri said several area restaurants hosted events on behalf of La Residence, including a high tea ceremony for the Jane Austen Society at City Kitchen in University Place.

Cassie Piercy, the general manager at City Kitchen, said the restaurant took on the event after hearing about the fire through an employee. 

“In the moment, we asked when the tea was, knowing our glass room was available as an event space,” she said.

Luckily, a set of vintage British teacups from the 1930s — integral for the ceremony — survived the fire. Piercy said the teacups belonged to Amanda Fisher, who was using La Residence as an event space and commissary kitchen for her pastry company, the Blakemere Company, at the time of the incident. Fisher is now working out of City Kitchen. 

John Gualtieri said La Residence is slated to reopen by early December.

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