NEW INFORMATION: Fire at Encore Bar & Grill; owner says he'll push forward

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ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- An up-and-coming bar and grill is hit with devastation Thursday night, as firefighters battle flames for hours.

What started as clouds of smoke turned into tall and heavy flames, as local fire departments responded to The Encore Bar & Grill in Altoona just before 6 p.m.

Firefighters say 16 people were inside the bar when the fire started, but no injuries are reported.

“We just didn't know what was going on and then a man came in and said we should probably get out because there’s a lot of smoke,” said Aryan Breen, who was picking up dinner with his family.

The owner of Encore, David Zempel, said he was eating dinner during happy-hour when he smelled smoke, that’s when he called 911. Zempel said he's just glad everyone made it out of the building safely.

“We had some work being done in the establishment this week,” Zempel said. “We put a lot of time and energy into making a lot of changes; and we had some companies doing some work today some renovations in the attic.”

Encore just held its grand-opening less than a year ago, trying to rebrand the bar and had just put in all new seating last week.

“It turned out to be such a nice place,” said customer Darin Flater, who was inside the bar when the smoke began. “This was about our third time coming back.”

Zempel said the fire is what you call a “bad day.”

“This building has had a lot of history, and just people who quite frankly, they didn't like it or they didn't have a good feel to it, and we're just attempting to change that,” Zempel added. “I love this area, I love this community, so this sucks to see.”

Although the building maybe in bad shape at this point, Zempel explained it’s not his main concern.

“I’m more worried about my staff,” he said. “They provide for their families working here; and I know I’ll put in a lot of work and make it work again.”

Altoona Fire Chief Jesse James issued a media release Thursday night saying the fire is under investigation and further details will be released once they become available.

ALTOONA, Wis. (ALTOONA FIRE DEPARTMENT NEWS RELEASE) -- The Altoona Fire Department was dispatched to The Encore bar at approximately 546 PM. The initial dispatch indicated it was a structure fire. When Altoona Police Department officers’ arrived on scene they observed heavy smoke coming from the roof area. The bar was occupied at the time of the call and the owner David Zempel removed all patrons to a safe location.

There were approximately 16 customers and employees in the bar at the time of this incident. There have been no reported injuries.

The building was smoke filled when entry was made by Altoona Fire. The fire appeared to be in the ceiling area. Crews attempted to locate the fire however flames appeared through the roof outside. Crews were immediately evacuated from the interior to prevent injury. Crews are still on the scene fighting the fire as the building continues to burn. We are protecting the nearby structures.

Altoona Fire Department and the Altoona Police Department was assisted by the Eau Claire Fire Department, Township Fire Department and the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Department. We ask the community to stay away from the scene as it is still an active incident.

This incident is under investigation and further details will be released once they become available.
If you have any questions please contact Chief Jesse James at 715.839.6090. Thank you!

ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- Fire crews remain on scene at Encore Bar and Grill in Altoona where smoke could be seen coming from the roof of the building Thursday night.

Fire crews responded to the bar at 943 Harlem St. around 6 p.m. Thursday night.

Bar owner David Zempel told our reporter on scene that crews were on scene today installing insulation at the bar. Zempel said he was working at the bar when he smelled smoke. That's when told everyone to leave the bar and emergency crews were called.

Zempel said everyone was cleared out of the bar before fire crews arrived.

Streets around the bar in Altoona are currently closed as crews continue to work on scene. There is no word on when streets could reopen.

Altoona Fire Chief Jesse James could not offer further details on the fire at this time.

Stay with WEAU 13 News for the latest in this developing story.

ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) --Crews are on scene of an apparent fire at Encore Bar and Grill.

The Altoona Fire Department arrived at Harlem St. around 6p.m.

The bar owner told WEAU that construction crews were on scene installing insulation in the attic when he smelled smoke.

The owner did say everyone was cleared out of the bar before fire crews arrived.

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