A popular Horsham town centre restaurant will be closed for three to six months after around half a million pounds worth of damage was caused by a blaze on Sunday (May 11).
However, the owner of Wabi in East Street has promised it will rise ‘like a phoenix from the ashes’ when it re-opens later this year.
Between £400,000 and £500,000 of damage was caused to the building by a fire in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Owner Paul Craig promised customers Wabi will re-launch but said repairs will take three months, and an insurance claim could further delay the process.
Mr Craig, 43, from Woodmancote, said: “We are determined to come back as Wabi, and offer the same quality and the same food in a new and greatly improved environment.
“When Wabi came to Horsham it was groundbreaking, and when Wabi re-opens in Horsham it will be groundbreaking again - like a phoenix from the ashes.”
Mr Craig, who has owned Wabi since October 2013, described his ‘shock’ when a decorator broke the news to him by telephone on Sunday morning.
The owner said: “He arrived to see seven fire engines here - he phoned me and the first thing he said was ‘mate, you’ve lost it all, the whole building is gone’.
“I was in shock. I got in the car immediately and drove up there, and was relieved when I first saw the building because the roof was still on it and I was expecting a total loss.
“Coming inside for the first time was a great sadness. It was a lovely building and seeing it in such bad shape was soul-destroying.”
Emergency services were called to East Street at about 5.40am.
Police set up a cordon as firefighters successfully battled the flames, using six hose reels and eight breathing apparatus.
Nobody was inside the burning building and no firefighters were injured.
Restaurant staff, waiting staff and bar staff took part in a mass clearing up job inside the building on Tuesday (May 13).
Mr Craig said his ‘goal’ was to keep his team together.
He added: “Today (Tuesday) we started the clear out and what is wonderful is we have every member of our team - kitchen staff, bar staff and waitresses - everyone is helping to bring the burnt rubble out the building.
“It is a great team effort, the Dunkirk spirit.”
Building work was set to commence this week.
Mark Hayter, fire investigation officer for West Sussex Fire and Rescue, said the source of the fire was an electric cooker.
He added: “It was quite a serious fire, causing smoke damage to virtually the whole of the building. It will require 100 per cent redecoration.”
Gail Tomsett took the above photograph while taking her dog for a walk.
She said: “Smoke was coming out of the Wabi building and the police said to move back in case the windows exploded. By the time I had walked around the block, four fire engines, a couple of ambulances and more emergency vehicles had arrived.”