VERY LATEST UPDATES: Fire Island Pines Harbor Engulfed in Flames; Pavilion Destroyed
A fast moving fire destroyed the Pavilion and an adjacent building in the Fire Island Pines commercial district late in the evening on Monday, Nov. 14.
Update Thursday 4 p.m.: The Pavilion site will probably not be rebuilt as a "big-box" nightclub. The owners of the space told Newsday that the three men are evaluating their options. "We’re evaulating all our options," co-owner Matthew Blesso told the newspaper. Bob Howard, a veteran real estate broker, whose office was also decimated in the blaze, said, ""There will be a lot of moaning about it because the Pavilion is considered to be the granddaddy of discos in the gay world. But time goes on. Nothing stays open forever." He may have been speaking for several observers. Speculation is building that the footprint of the club, the largest dance space on Fire Island, will not be replicated. In recent years, the hours have scaled back, as an all-night dance, which once ended as late as Sunday early afternoon, last season routinely ended by 3 a.m. -- early, by New York City club standards.
Update Wednesday 4 p.m.: The Sip ’N’ Twirl has been bulldozed. A decision is pending on razing the Pavilion, because of concerns about a hot spot under the building. Look below for more updates and check into this URL for updates on the situation in Pines Harbor as it unfolds.
Initial reports indicate the blaze broke out around 9:15 p.m. It quickly engulfed the Pavilion, the town’s premier nightclub, C.F. LaFountaine’s properties, the Sip N’ Twirl bar and dance space, the Pines Bistro and a bayfront home. Walter Boss of the Fire Island Pines Fire Department confirmed the damage at 11:20 p.m.
Businesses north of the Pavilion along the harbor appear to have been scathed. Three hundred firefighters from the Pines, Ocean Bay Park, Davis Park, Point O’ Woods, Cherry Grove, Ocean Beach, Fair Harbor, Saltaire, Kismet, East Islip, West Islip, Hagerman, Sayville, Bellport, Great River and Bay Shore responded in the largest response to a fire on Long Island since the Sunrise Fires scorched thousands of acres of pine barrens near the Hamptons in 1995. There are no reported injuries.
The fire comes at an opportune time, well after the season, when nearly all the buildings are abandoned for the long winter and only the most skeletal of crews -- many, if not most, of whom are members of the local volunteer Fire Department -- remain. At most, there may be 50 people, more likely 30, on the island to fight this blaze, the worst the community has seen since a fire destroyed the original Botel in 1959.
Late reports have it that the Pavilion’s roof had been destroyed. The original Pavilion, which opened in 1980, quickly established itself as one of the most influential gay dance clubs in the world. Despite its small size and isolation, it made the reputations of many DJs and recording artists.
It was replaced by a huge new complex constructed by the now-former owner, Eric von Kuersteiner, a few years ago. The Pavilion underwent a substantial renovation last year under its three new owners. The Pavilion complex, the largest in the community with the Community House, which lies away from the downtown harbor area, includes offices, a general store, and a large complex of upstairs lounge spaces.
The Sip ’n’ Twirl, originally the Crews Quarters, is a Pines institution. It sits one walk off the harbor area, on Pickety Ruff Walk. The bar complex houses a large bar, a dance space, a pool table and a large outdoor balcony. Adjacent to it and below is the Pines Bistro, a restaurant. According to reports this entire complex, affectionally referred to as the LaFountaine Mini-Mall, is up in flames.
The complex is named for its original owner and developer, Claren LaFountaine, a local who moved to the just-opened community of Fire Island Pines in the early ’50s. His progeny now control the property. Apparently, the buildings north of the Pavilion, including Pines Pantry, the town’s major grocery store, have not been effected.
Fire Island Pines is a lush beach community surrounded by outgrowths of native and imported fauna, including the eponymous pines. While making the community perhaps the most beautiful on all of Fire Island, it also contributes to a sense of dread about the consequences of fire, which has consumed many homes over the years.
Now, the homeowners, businesspeople and many visitors will once again be reminded that the name "Fire Island" contains within it terror and destruction.