Wednesday, April 16, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Fire guts beloved Pepperbelly’s club

PepperbellyÕs Comedy Club destroyed by fire

Firefighters battle a blaze that engulfed Pepperbelly's Comedy Club on Friday night in Fairfield. (Conner Jay/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | January 26, 2013 | 11 Comments

FAIRFIELD — Hundreds of spectators stood aghast Friday night as heavy flames burst from windows of Pepperbelly’s Comedy Club and smoke engulfed the building.

Many longtime Fairfield residents were shocked as they watched flames race through and gut one of Fairfield’s oldest, most beloved sites.

“Pepperbelly’s is finished,” said John Davins as he watched the fire grow.

The fire was reported about 6:45 p.m. by someone inside. Sirens went off and all Pepperbelly’s employees were safely evacuated before police came to the scene and assessed the situation.

More than 20 fire engines from all over Solano County arrived to battle the five-alarm fire.

Fairfield Fire Chief Vince Webster said firefighters were initially able to go inside but were unable to find the source of the fire. As the fire and heat grew quickly and smoked thickened, firefighters backed out and ran out of theater yelling “get out.”

From there, firefighters fought the fire from the outside and above, trying to keep the fire from spreading to adjacent buildings. So much water was shot onto and into the building that the city called in Public Works Department crews to deal with flooding.

Fairfield’s first movie theater, which opened in 1921, was at the location of Pepperbelly’s. It was refurbished in 1945 as the Solano Theater and in 1974, it changed its name to Fairfield Cinema 1. After the movie theater closed in the 1990s, it was closed until it reopening as a comedy club and has since been run by multiple operators.

Friday’s fire came a year and 12 days after a massive blaze burned a large office building at 744 Empire St., just two blocks away.

Webster said because the structure was older, the fire spread faster, though there were no major at-risk materials in the building.  He said he believes the source of the fire was inside the second story, but firefighters had still not found the source of the fire late Friday night.

It is unknown if there was any damage to nearby buildings.

Pepperbelly’s has hosted many big-name comics, including Dana Carvey, Bill Bellamy, DC Curry, Tommy Davidson, DL Hughly and Christopher Titus. Davidson, Dustin Diamond and Jimmy Walker were among the comedians scheduled to appear at the club in coming weeks.

A number of people showed up to catch a show by comedian Honest John, but instead watched from the sidewalks as Pepperbelly’s burned.

Jason and Natalia Diavatis were two of those who came for the show. Natalia Diavatis stood outside for a while taking pictures of poles on fire and musing with her husband about the source of the fire.

The couple moved inside Miko’s Japanese Cuisine, kitty corner to the fire. Jason Diavatis said his sister Wendy, who owns Truffle Berries down the street, was worried about her business.

A large crowd at the corner of Jackson Street and Texas Street gasped as flames burst from the roof and smoke flooded the streets.

Bill Kittle, an employee of Solano Window Fashions just down the block from Pepperbelly’s, said he was thankful that firefighters responded so quickly.

“This is an old wood structure,” Kittle said. “The fact that the Fire Department kept it from growing shows how great our Fire Department is.”

On the west side of the Pepperbelly’s is a large mural, painted in the summer of 2005, depicting Solano County’s history. Sherwood Lunsted stood watching along Texas Street, shaking his head as the mural was slowly destroyed.

“It’s such a beautiful mural . . . such an old building,” he said. “It’s too bad.”

A little after 10 p.m., fire officials reported that the entire roof of Pepperbelly’s had collapsed and there was no visible fire.

Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or hahsan@dailyrepublic.net. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San covers Rio Vista, features and general news for the Daily Republic. She received her bachelors of art degree from the University of Oregon.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 11 comments

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  • Steven KaysJanuary 25, 2013 - 11:07 pm

    Very sad.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Janis EdwardsJanuary 26, 2013 - 8:39 am

    So sad for many longtime and long ago residents. I went on my first date (when that meant something) at the theatre in 1963. Everyone will have memories. I am thankful I could view pics on the internet.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • BernadetteJanuary 26, 2013 - 3:34 am

    All the memories that building holds for so many. Sad to see it gone.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • WendyJanuary 26, 2013 - 6:35 am

    I was never concerned about my business. I am a good distance aways from PepperBelly's. I was concerned for my friends business...for PepperBelly's. It is very sad. I watched it burn down just like so many other people. I hope they can rebuild.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • KirstenJanuary 26, 2013 - 9:22 am

    How unusual, a newspaper misquoting somebody? Wendy, I think the only thing that would make me happy now is a PMS cookie

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • TimJanuary 26, 2013 - 7:03 am

    As nice as the club was It wouldnt surprise me if its an insurance issue with the changing of ownership back and forth over the last couple years

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • vince guisandeJanuary 26, 2013 - 7:17 am

    Randeep,Taran,and Wayne, Our family and friends are so sorry for the loss. We know how hard you guys and your families worked to make Pepperbellys the place to be and appreciate it. Your work has brought so many smiles and fond memories for so many of us in Fairfield. Much love and blessings to your future endeavors. The people will be waiting with open arms for the return!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • louisJanuary 26, 2013 - 11:41 am

    That sucks! I went with a couple friends to see Bruce Bruce! I hope they rebuild it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Steven KaysJanuary 26, 2013 - 12:40 pm

    After the sadness come hope. Let's hope somebody will innovate the corner where PepperBelly's once stood. Time to get creative and move things forward.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • 707truthJanuary 26, 2013 - 9:00 pm

    Really.....self promotion from Steve Kays again! What a shock.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • mike mikeJanuary 26, 2013 - 10:13 pm

    The city of fairfield is the only city west of the mississippi over 50,000 population without a truck company. Even suisun city has one. Fairfield does have one but it is parked at the station due to administration direction. Below is the ISO recommendation for having a truck company. Based on ISO (insurance services organization) the city of fairfield should have 2 or 3 truck companies based on the 5 different districts. The ISO recommends that an aerial ladder truck be used in response areas that have: Five buildings that are three stories — 35 feet to the eaves — or more in height. Five buildings that require a fire flow of greater than 3,500 gpm. Five buildings with any combination of these criteria.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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