Belle’s Cocktail House building burns in downtown Lexington
Flames and smoke rolled Friday from the top of the downtown Lexington bar Belle’s Cocktail House.
Dozens of firefighters worked to control the fire that began around 9 a.m. on Market Street, between Mill and Upper streets near Gratz Park. Christ Church Cathedral is next door.
A quick fire department response saved the bar, co-owner Justin Thompson said. The bar is closed indefinitely.
“The damage is not as bad as it seems at the moment, “ Thompson said not long after the fire was extinguished.
Battalion Chief Chris Ward said the fire was contained to the third-floor roof patio and so was the damage. The business has a rooftop bar. There was no one inside at the time of the “routine” fire.
“It was a whole lot less when I got here than when I pulled out of headquarters,” Ward said.
One firefighter had a minor hand injury, said Maj. Jordan Saas.
The fire initially looked ferocious.
“We saw the flames, and they were leaping about 20 feet in the air. Not smoke so much, but the flames, there were so many of them,” said Carolyn Averitt from nearby Walter & Associates. “Luckily the fire department got here quickly.”
Thompson said photos he was getting in text messages on the way to the fire were disturbing.
“I was rushing down here but as the pictures started coming in I sort of slowed down,” Thompson said. “I wasn’t going to be in a hurry to watch it all burn down.”
Saas said the building’s sprinkler system activated.
An investigator was on scene Friday to determine the cause of the fire, Ward said. Ward is not sure if a cause will be determined by the end of the day, he said.
Belle’s at 156 Market Street was opened about five years ago. It focuses “on handcrafted cocktails, Bourbon and craft beer,” according to its website.
Thompson said the company will work quickly on repairs to get “our folks back to work as soon as possible.”
“We’ll get it back open again,” he said.
Belle’s is named after famed madam Belle Brezing, who opened her first brothel in Lexington in 1879, according to information from University of Kentucky libraries. But it was her third brothel that was the most famous and attracted clientele from all across the nation.
Brezing’s third brothel caught fire in its third-floor attic in 1895, Ryan Lippert noted in an email to the Herald-Leader. She died in 1940, and in 1973, her former estate at 153 N. Eastern Avenue was demolished after a fire gutted the third floor, Brezing’s biography from the UK library states.
And now the owners of the bar named after Belle Brezing will work to restore its (you guessed it) third floor.