After a fire damaged ROTC Grill on Dec. 22, the future of the longtime Fayetteville restaurant was in serious question.
But now, thanks to an outpouring of support from the community, ROTC is well on its way to reopening for business.
Employees, both past and present, as well as several regular customers, have been donating their time and effort to cleaning up after the fire.
“They’ve been turning out in droves to help us,” said owner T.L. Nelms. “They’re a great bunch, and we’re lucky to have them. We’ve even got some construction workers who were regulars that were off work (Monday) here helping.”
Steve Voorhies, Manager of Media Relations at the UA, and also a longtime cook on Saturday nights at ROTC, is one of those helping with the renovations.
Voorhies also started a Facebook page to help ROTC faithful track the cleanup efforts, which will be accelerated as of Monday when power was finally restored to the building.
“Getting the electricity back is going to help a lot,” said Voorhies. “Now that we’ve got the power on, the gas and water will follow.”
Voorhies says that the support from the community is a testament to the connection locals have with the restaurant. “It’s been great,” he said. “You see the number of restaurants that close, and people just kind of shrug their shoulders. That’s not the case here.”
On the day of the fire, many regulars came out to let Nelms know they were in support of the reopening. “I think that really encouraged him,” Voorhies told us. “One guy brought out a rollout dumpster. Another brought a backhoe. They just want to see it open again.”
Even Don Tyson and Joe Fred Starr, both longtime customers and former executives at Tyson Foods, stopped by and donated money to the cause.
“We had our Christmas party the Sunday before the fire and Don was there,” Voorhies said. “He’s been a regular since the place opened. When Don Tyson gives you some money and says ‘Open it back up,’ that’s good motivation.”
The cause of the fire was determined to be a trash can sitting on an extension cord that overheated in the bar area. As a result, the bar received the brunt of the damage. The restaurant and kitchen side were mostly just smoke-damaged. Nelms said that he plans to finish the cleanup of the restaurant side, and reopen that area in about a month. The bar area will require more work.
Nelms, who told us a couple of weeks ago that the damage “might be the final nail in the coffin” for ROTC was optimistic on Monday.
“Maybe we can make it to 37 years now,” he said.[Photos from the ROTC Grill Facebook page.]