One with the works
AMedford burger restaurant is set to reopen its doors seven months after arsonists broke in, swiped the cash register and set the building on fire.
Barney's Better Burgers, 415 N. Riverside Ave., hopes to reopen early next week, though an exact date has not been set.
"We really haven't worked out all the kinks on exactly what we're going to be doing," said assistant manager Stephanie Chapman.
The restaurant near the intersection of Riverside Avenue and East Jackson Street will have a new look, rebuilt from the floor up. Diners will find a counter and bar stools and five new seats, upping the seating capacity to about 25 people. A wall separating the kitchen from the seating area and another restroom have been added.
"Absolutely everything is new in here from floor to ceiling," Chapman said.
The fare of burgers, fries, soft drinks and milkshakes is not changing and the old prices are not budging.
"Everything's staying the same," Chapman said.
The fire was first reported shortly after midnight on June 18. Four engines and 14 firefighters responded to find thick smoke and flames shooting from the front of the restaurant. Crews had the flames under control in about five minutes.
The blaze resulted in a total loss, with about $80,000 in damage to the contents and structure. Fire officials said there was evidence the fire was set intentionally, but would not disclose specific details, as the investigation is still open.
"The fire started in an area where there was no (accidental) ignition source," said Ralph Sartain, fire investigator for Medford Fire-Rescue.
Criminal investigators believe the suspect or suspects entered the business through the back before stealing the register and setting the fire. The ignition method is different than that in the arson fires at 14 vacant homes around Medford since April 2012 and the July Zion Lutheran Church arson caused by a Molotov cocktail.
"It doesn't appear to be connected," Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau said. "We typically don't have burglary crime scenes destroyed by fire. That was very unusual. To have both of those at the same time was rather interesting and pretty much stands alone for that type of crime."
The case has gone cold, police added, with no suspect information or suspect description. Anyone with information on the case should contact the Medford police detectives at 541-774-2230.
"It's extremely frustrating they're not sure who it is," Chapman said.
But case closed or not, Barney's employees say they're ready to get back to making burgers.
"We're really excited about getting our customers back in here and starting to serve our food up again. It's been a long road trying to get everything accomplished," Chapman said. "We just appreciate our customers hanging in there. We know they're anxious to get in and we're anxious to have them in."
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.