Fire and smoke wreaked havoc at the beloved Island Cow restaurant on Sanibel on Saturday night.
Smoke and flames were seen pouring from the roof of the restaurant. At least 10 fire trucks and three ambulances were at the scene.
According to a former employee, the fire started just before midnight on Saturday. Caution tape now surrounds the restaurant as fire crews clean up the scene.
WINK News spoke to former employee Retta Crank, who lives on the island, and said she rushed to the restaurant once she heard it caught on fire.
She shared a video of the fire that showed smoke billowing out of the building.
Crank also shared a picture of inside the restaurant, where there is extensive damage from the flames.
Crank said she was glad no one was hurt. “People were off work. And the cleaner was inside. And he noticed that where the pilot light is, was on fire. And it was so quick after that. It’s an old building. Like I can’t say we’re surprised.”
The Island Cow has been a Sanibel staple for more than 20 years.
“In one of the work text apps, it said, ‘go the back way, The Island Cow’s on fire.’ So we jumped in our car and went because I knew that this was huge,” said Crank. “I worked there when the other machine broke, and we lost muffins for like, two weeks, and that was horrible. I can’t imagine what people are going to do now that it’s caught on fire.”
Hank Shaudys, a contractor who helped build this restaurant 22 years ago,
said, The Island Cow was like a monument on the island; everybody would go there, even the locals.
“One worker that worked with me on this, he gave me a call this morning and told me the Island Cow burned down. And I was like, oh no, I got to go take a look at that. But it’s not completely burned down, but it’s deadly damage,” Shaudys said.
The Island Cow owners, Brian and Elke Podlasek, released a statement on the fire, saying:
Island Cow is currently closed following a fire that started in our kitchen after we had closed for the evening. Thankfully, no one was injured, and we are committed to renovating and reopening as quickly as possible. On behalf of our Island Cow family, we want to thank everyone for their ongoing support while we close temporarily for repairs.
The fire department has not said if it has determined a cause, but WINK News will continue to update you as more information becomes available.