I was at the main branch of the SF Library when this dubious-looking character begins to strike up a conversation. One adopts a veneer of reserve after being accosted by street types a few too many times, but this fellow seemed to have something urgent to report. “Ya know Zrignljos?” he said. “What?” “Zringnljos! The restrunt! Over there!” he pointed vaguely. “Zringnljos! Ya know!” Um, yeah,” I replied. “Well, it just burned down! I was there! It burned down! Big fire!”
It was true. Original Joe’s restaurant was shut down by fire and will be closed for at least a couple of months. The restaurant was a Tenderloin institution, having been in continuous operation for 70 years. This will be its longest shut-down ever.
Chronicle Staff Writers Kevin Fagan and Stacy Finz have the story at SFGate:
“The pipe from the charcoal burner started making a roaring noise, so we called the Fire Department,” said longtime waiter Roger Miranda. “That’s always a bad noise. When the smoke started, we ran out as fast as we could.” The charcoal burner is always lit on Fridays to cook steak and fish, Miranda said.
While Miranda was helping evacuate the 21 workers in the restaurant, waiter Sergio Morales dashed upstairs to the 30-room, low-rent residential Moderne Hotel that occupies the second floor of the two-story Original Joe’s building.
“I ran down the hallways, banging on doors and telling everyone, ‘Get out! Get out!’ and then I got out, too,” Morales said.
One man, however, headed up instead of down – hotel manager Dennis Rindell. He hit the roof, grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed its contents down the flue.
It didn’t work. He was pulled off the roof by firefighters using an extension ladder.
“The flames and the smoke kept coming, and I couldn’t stand it any more,” Rindell said as he stood on Taylor Street sucking air off an oxygen mask.