Officials React To ‘Devastating’ Fire At Hare ‘N Hounds Inn

A fire that heavily damaged a fine dining restaurant in Bemus Point on Wednesday night has been ruled accidental. P-J photo by Jimmy McCarthy

For nearly a century, Ye Hare ‘n Hounds Inn has been a staple of Bemus Point fine dining. Yet after Wednesday night’s harrowing blaze — the result of a deteriorated exhaust chimney pipe — the restaurant’s future is now uncertain.

“It’s truly devastating,” said Bryan Dahlberg, mayor of Bemus Point. “It’s devastating for the family, the owners, the employees, their suppliers and the whole community. (The restaurant) has really been a focal point of our village and it’s a shame that this had to happen.”

On Wednesday, more than 100 area firefighters from a half-dozen departments responded to the 64 Lakeside Drive restaurant after 9 p.m. The restaurant’s owners and patrons, who were still inside at the time, managed to escape without injury.

Dahlberg, who volunteers with the Bemus Point Fire Department, said he was up well into the early morning hours at the scene, an experience reminiscent of another fire he battled at Hare and Hounds back in the early 1980s.

“There was quite a bad fire in the building (in 1982) due to a furnace malfunction,” he said.

Wednesday’s fire, however, was due to an exhaust chimney pipe for the kitchen broiler that deteriorated and allowed heat from the broiler to get into the wall studs and spread to the second floor.

Mike Winne, Bemus Point fire chief, said the fire proved difficult to manage due to the building’s construction.

“It’s a very old building,” Winne said. “(The fire) got away from us and was stuck behind old walls. We couldn’t get to it.”

The restaurant sustained heavy fire, heat and water damage as a result.

Dahlberg said he has yet to speak with Mark and Jennifer Garrett, owners of Hare and Hounds, and is still not sure when repairs will begin.

“We are a tight-knit community and will help in any way we can,” he said.

Vince Horrigan, Chautauqua County executive and Bemus Point resident, echoed Dahlberg’s sentiments.

“It really is a tragic situation,” he said. “I have very fond memories of the Hare and Hounds as a young boy … and our family has always called it somewhere special.”

Horrigan said the Garretts were “quite upset” with the situation and are currently inundated with contractors and insurance representatives.

“It’s too early to really know the next step,” he said. “We’ll follow things closely and provide whatever support we can. I really hope they’re able to make repairs and bring the Hare and Hounds back.”

Horrigan praised the response of the Bemus Point Fire Department as well as the accompanying fire departments that responded to the fire, which he said, could have been much worse.

According to the restaurant’s website, Ye Hare ‘n Hounds Inn — also known locally as Hare and Hounds — was built as a replica of an English Inn. It opened in 1915 as a private retreat for the Emery Family, and was established as the Hare and Hounds restaurant in 1921.

The Garretts declined to comment when contacted by The Post-Journal.