ELK RAPIDS — Police and fire officials have yet to determine what caused a fire that destroyed an Elk Rapids restaurant and ignited memories of two unsolved arsons in the same area last year.
Investigators haven't found anything to indicate an intentionally set fire at Riverwalk Grill on Ames Street and U.S. 31, said village police Officer Tom Near.
The fire started in the restaurant's basement about 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Several fire departments battled the blaze through the night but couldn't save a building that housed a restaurant for nearly a half-century.
The fire evoked fresh empathy among nearby business owners who've seen similar losses.
"A tragedy of any sort in a community as small as ours is always felt," said Barb Mullaly, president of the Elk Rapids Chamber of Commerce. "A restaurant has been at that location for a long time ... and it's not just the owner's loss, but think about the people who were going to come to work there today."
Co-owner Matt Davies did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.
Dan Reszka, owner of the Blue Heron Gallery on Ames Street, has seen three fires in less than a year in the village where he also serves as council president.
Someone torched a vacant home in October 2010; 15 days later Swift Audio was set ablaze just a few blocks away. That fire also is considered an arson.
Those two arsons remain active probes between Antrim County sheriff's officials and village police, said Sheriff Dan Bean.
"We've developed a suspect, but there remains some work on it," Bean said. "We have not made any arrests on it."
News of the Riverwalk Grill fire caused some initial concern for Reszka, but the latest blaze doesn't appear to be related to the 2010 fires, based on what he's heard.
"I think it's really sad, to lose any business like that," Reszka said. "It's a hard thing to have to go through."