“This was a place of celebration…I will reopen.”

By Rebecca Angel Baer
March 12, 2019

For anyone who lived or vacationed along 30A, The Red Bar has long been part of the fabric of our lives. The news that a fire reduced Florida beach establishment to rubble broke all of our hearts.

In the early morning hours of February 13, 2019, South Walton Fire District officials responded to calls of a fire in the legendary local hangout. Not long after, SWFD reported that thankfully there were no injuries but, “unfortunately the Red Bar sustained heavy fire damage and is now a total loss.”

 Speaking with one of Southern Living’s news partners, local resident Matt Provow shared what that scary moment felt like. “It was like watching a family member pass. It was really difficult.”

As news spread across social media, sorrow spread. Named one of the South’s favorite bars in Southern Living’s South’s Best 2019 awards, the eclectic, free-spirited restaurant and bar was a favorite to so many—far beyond just those in the area. It had the perfect blend of appeal to attract locals and tourists alike.

“I knew people grew up in that place, it’s devastating,” said Red Bar regular, Brian Cooper.

The good news is that no one was hurt or injured in the blaze but then thoughts immediately went to the staff that has relied on always busy Red Bar for their livelihoods. Fundraisers began right away to help those who suddenly found themselves out of a job.

“It hurts me to see my Red Bar family not have a place to work for the next—who knows? And believe it or not there are still fundraisers going on and the money all goes to the employees,” said Wells Buzzett, a Red Bar employee himself. He continued, “People need the support and the community has come around, and it’s really an amazing thing.”

Owner Oliver Petit reflected on just how important his restaurant has been to the community over the years.

 “You know, the human relationship{s} that I’ve made in this place are just amazing. And then the music, the employees, the staff, some of them have been there since day one,” Petit said.

“For some of them, you might have met their wives or celebrated the closing of a house or birthdays, or you name it. This was a place of celebration.”

But just a month after the fire, Petit is vowing that The Red Bar will be rebuilt.

“Please don’t quote me but Labor Day Weekend’s a good time to open a restaurant. If it’s later, it will be later, but I will reopen,” he said with a smile.

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