Fairfield suffered a great loss Jan. 25 when Pepperbelly’s Comedy Club was destroyed.
We may never know the cause of the devastating fire, beyond that it was accidental. What we do know is that Fairfield firefighters acquitted themselves admirably, as did firefighters from across the region who raced to downtown Fairfield when the call for help went out.
No injuries were reported. The fire was contained to the Pepperbelly’s building. Damage to adjacent structures was kept to a minimum. For all of that, we are thankful.
Best of all, it appears that the show will go on, at least for the time being, right down the street at the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts. We can thank the people with the Downtown Theatre Association and the Fairfield Main Street Association for that bit of good news.
Building owner Wayne Mayhew has indicated he wants to rebuild. Pepperbelly’s operator Taranbir Dhanoa, who has run the business for the past two years, wants the same.
It will be an uphill battle. The structure, which dates to the early 1920s, must meet current building code requirements if it’s to be rebuilt. That includes current earthquake standards, which means we may still lose the lovely mural that graces the side of the building.
The quest to rebuild, should Mayhew and company choose to go that route, will also take time. Just look at the gutted office building a few blocks away on Empire Street, which burned a little more than a year ago and remains a shell.
It’s worth the effort. The Pepperbelly’s building was a vibrant part of the town’s entertainment soul for decades, first as the community’s lone movie theater, and in recent years as a comedy club. The memories longtime residents have shared over the course of the past week – of first dates, employment opportunities and family outings – are testament to the former theater’s place in our collective hearts. The response from comedians all across the region speaks to its importance today among the community of standup comics.
Plus, it was just a fun place to go for entertainment, one that drew people here from across the region.
Bottom line: The loss of Pepperbelly’s will be felt for many months to come, perhaps years. We hope this is not the end of an era, but the dawning of a bright new day as Pepperbelly’s rises from ruin to reclaim its place as a major entertainment draw for downtown Fairfield.