A devastating fire broke out at Rooks Cantina 505 early Wednesday morning, destroying the landmark Ambridge restaurant and lounge.
“Everything was fine. The kitchen was closing down, the bar waitresses were there, everyone was cleaning,” said Romero, who employs about a dozen people.
She said they were eating and happily talking when they all began smelling smoke at once. That’s when she said someone burst into the restaurant and told everyone to get out because the place was on fire.
Romero said she ran outside to the corner and saw the entire back end of the business up in flames. She ran back in and started screaming for everyone to get out. An apartment next door was also evacuated.
“Everyone started grabbing their stuff – whatever they could – and they all got out,” she said.
Costanza said he saw his pickup truck parked in the back engulfed in flames, which he believed to be a total loss.
No one was living upstairs. But Costanza’s office was there, where he kept sports memorabilia and other valuable items.
“All of my papers are upstairs, all of my documents,” he said.
The couple recently purchased the business, previously Rooks East Side Saloon, with high hopes for a restaurant and lounge serving a new menu of American and authentic New Mexican cuisine.
They kept the Rooks name to honor the historical legacy of Jim Rooker, who owned the original sports bar in the same location.
A grand re-opening celebration held on May 5, marking Cinco de Mayo, was heavily attended and the owners felt optimistic about the future.
While watching their dreams go up in smoke, they accepted hugs and comfort from friends and employees.
“Another vacant building in Ambridge,” Costanza said.
Firefighters remained on scene. The cause of the fire was unavailable early Wednesday and is under investigation.