A fire destroyed a barbeque restaurant in Jasper on Christmas Eve, leaving regular customers without a place to go for lunch or their morning cup of coffee.
The Hickoryland Bar-B-Q restaurant burned to the ground overnight. Jasper Fire Chief David Clark said when units arrived to the scene around 10:15 p.m., there was already heavy fire and smoke coming from the building.
The restaurant has been in downtown Jasper for 20 years, and before that there was a Sonic at its location. Patrons said it had been closed for Christmas since Monday, Dec. 23.
Myra Watkins has owned Hickoryland Bar-B-Q for the past eight years. Her son-in-law Junior Cornelius says she's upset about the fire and isn't sure if she'll reopen the restaurant. He added that it appears the fire started in the office area in the back of the restaurant.
Regular customer Sam Murphy is part of a group that has met for coffee since World War II, and for the past five years they've met at Hickoryland Bar-B-Q. He added that he's been eating there for lunch and dinner for 20 years.
"It's tragic loss for downtown Jasper. It's one of the few full service restaurants downtown," he said.
Murphy said the coffee group has usually has between 8 and 15 members who meet each morning over coffee. He said the group has moved two cedar tables with them from various restaurants over the years.
"We had two tables moved from restaurant to restaurant. They were made of cedar and we had people's names on plaques of all the people who had died," Murphy explained.
The tables were lost in the fire as well.
"It's just heart breaking. For people that own the restaurant who put their heart and soul into running. It's tragic to see this happening, especially this time of year," Murphy said.
Murphy said he's in the process of notifying his fellow coffee group members about the fire so they can find a new meeting place.
Chief Clark says the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
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1720 Valley View Drive