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UI students, businesses still recovering after fire

BY MARY KATE KNORR | OCTOBER 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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Numerous Iowa City businesses and residents are still recovering almost four weeks after a fire ravaged the Brueggers Bagel Bakery building and several surrounding buildings.

Though most neighboring businesses have been able to reopen, residents and business owners are still waiting to learn what caused the fire before they'll know how much damage their insurance will cover.

Though the Yacht Club, Takanami, and Akar — all temporarily closed following the Sept. 24 fire — have since reopened, Studio 13 is still being repaired.

"Most of the damage was water; we had to replace lots and lots of dry wall, all of our electronics, our DJ equipment, lights scanners, and all the beer signs," said Tim Kelly, the owner of Studio 13, standing among torn-up floors and a disarray of lights and cords. "It was just horrible."

Kelly said workers are repairing the carpeted floors, and the bar is set to reopen Friday.

While three of the four businesses disabled by the fire have reopened, several of them have not completely recovered.

"Downstairs, where our office is and storage area, we had water damage," said Jigna Jani, the owner of Akar Design, 257 Iowa Ave. "Most of the repair work that needs to be done is in the lower area, and it's going to take a lot longer."

Jani said Akar was closed for two and a half weeks, primarily because of smoke damage in the retail area of the store.

Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St., has also reopened.

"[The damage] was pretty extensive," said club owner Scott Kading. "We had to replace all of the ceilings, re-do the floors, the bathrooms, throw out all of the liquor."

Yacht Club relocated all of its scheduled shows to Gabe's, another local music venue Kading owns, until it reopened on Oct. 8.

"For the most part [now], we're good to go," Kading said. "There are a couple of improvements that we're making, but for the most part, we're good to go."

Takanami has also reopened, but several residents who lived above the affected buildings have been forced to find housing elsewhere.

Michael Lersten, a University of Iowa medical student and resident of 9 S. Linn St., is living with a friend and plans to sublet an apartment next semester.

"All of my friends have been pitching in and helping me out with small things," he said. "Overall, everybody's just been so helpful."

Lersten's building was destroyed. Other than a T-shirt and pair of jeans packed in a bag for the next morning's football game, all of his belongings were lost in the fire.

"[My parents and I] convened over breakfast [the morning after] and at that point, we didn't think that I had any insurance at all," Lersten said. "Later that day, we found out that I would be covered by their homeowner's insurance, so that was a huge weight off our shoulders."

The American Red Cross approached Lersten, along with the other residents of the apartment building, about the possibility for financial aid.

The Red Cross gave Lersten $200, as well as two nights' paid stay at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Iowa City.

"At that point, I got essentials, regrouped, and started up class again," Lersten said. "That was the biggest pain for me, was getting all my notes back."

Iowa City fire investigators examined the scene Oct. 4 and 7 to determine the cause of the fire. They were unable to discover the cause, but authorities confirmed Wednesday evening the investigation is still underway.


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