Fire damages T-Bone's Sports Bar & Grill
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
and DAWNE LEIKER
Mike Butler usually arrives at his Hays business at approximately 9:30 a.m., in time to get things ready for opening at 11.
He took a phone call this morning while getting ready for work, one he would rather not have received.
His business, T-Bone's Sports Bar & Grill at 2415 General Hays Road, was on fire.
Allen Lang, an employee at an adjoining business, Nex-Tech, called 911 after hearing a popping noise, which sounded to him like an electrical breaker blowing. He saw smoke coming from the top of the building and determined it was coming from T-Bone's.
Butler learned of the fire soon afterward.
"I got a call from a friend at Nex-Tech, and she said (T-Bone's) was on fire," said Butler, who stood across the street from T-Bone's and watched as firefighters made their way to the Ellis County Rehab Unit.
Local firefighters were aided by area departments, including Ellis County Rural, Victoria and the city of Ellis.
It was too early to determine if the building was a total loss, but it was obvious the popular local hangout Butler has owned for seven years had received extensive damage.
Windows were broken out, and flames and smoke had been billowing from the roof just moments before Butler arrived.
"We just had the roof fixed for winter," Butler said, shaking his head. " ... and done some renovations inside."
Butler runs the business in the building he owns along with his brother, Brian Butler, and their dad, Ralph Butler. Mike Butler was uncertain where the fire started and had not yet visited with the state fire marshal, who arrived on the scene about 11:30 a.m.
Approximately 100 employees at Nex-Tech, which owns buildings to the north and south of T-Bone's, were evacuated. Lang, who serves on the company's safety committee, said safety procedures were followed during the evacuation process.
"We decided to evacuate the building out through the front," he said, pointing to the parking lot from his vantage point across the street. "We all congregated there and made sure we did a couple of sweeps of the building to make sure everybody was out."
Those working in the north building were able to return to work at 10:30 a.m. However, the south Nex-Tech building, whose north wall adjoins T-Bone's, received smoke damage.
"We sent some home and some to the Internet building downtown," Jeff Wick, chief operating officer of Nex-Tech, said of his employees.
After realizing the south building would be off limits for a while, Wick already was making alternative plans.
"We'll have to move them around and get them productive tomorrow," Wick said.
Wick said he thought most other businesses in the Centennial Mall complex -- with the exception of Heartland Crafts and Gifts, which received smoke damage -- would reopen today.
Dale Brooks of Continental Barber & Style Shop, another business in the complex, watched as firefighters wrapped up efforts on the west side of T-Bone's.
"I wasn't planning on doing this today," Brooks said as he took a seat on the curb near Love's Country Store approximately a block north of Nex-Tech and T-Bone's. "Good thing it wasn't a cold day."