Manager of Croydon restaurant set alight in suspected arson tells customers they're still open


The management of the building that was set on fire in a suspected arson attack in Croydon yesterday, June 27, has come forward to say the businesses inside are running as usual. The building was set ablaze at about 8.30pm last night on Croydon High Street below the A232 flyover and it took 60 firefighters over an hour to quell the inferno.

The manager of the building, who did not want to be named, said her CCTV showed the fire started after a man set fire to a fly-tipped fridge in an alleyway beside the building and the police have launched an arson investigation but have made no arrests yet. The building houses three businesses: Ponte Nuovo Ristorante, Funhouse Gaming Bar and Memory Box Cocktail Bar.

The fridge was next to a storage unit for the restaurant. The storage unit was completely burnt, along with thousands of pounds worth of festival equipment but thankfully the fire did not spread inside the businesses themselves so they remain open today.

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Burning fridge
The fire started from a fly-tipped fridge that was set alight, the manager of the building said -Credit:Management

The manager said: "It's just scary that there are people out there that do things like that, to be honest. Something as stupid as setting a fridge alight could have turned into killing someone - to be a murder."

The LFB had to remove four gas cylinders from inside the premises and cool them down as a precaution and warned that if exposed to heat these can often explode. The manager explained that these cylinders were for pumping beers in the bar. "The place could have exploded, it's so dangerous," the manager said, "the impact it has also done today is that we have to go through fire audits, safety audits and people coming to inspect us."

Inside the burnt-out storage unit
Thousands of pounds worth of stock and festival equipment were destroyed in the blaze, the manager said -Credit:Managment

She added: "A lot of the staff who were working are a little bit upset and traumatised because it was quite a big incident - there were a lot of fire engines there and I was really worried about if anyone was inside."

The businesses had to shut that evening but the manager assured that they were back up and running today as usual, despite the police staying until 4am this morning and setting up a crime scene after arson was suspected.

Burnt out room
A new storage room will have to be built, the manager said -Credit:Management

The manager wanted to thank the LFB for their quick response. She said: "The fire brigade were amazing - they turned up within two or three minutes. Honestly, they were amazing men, amazing people. They got there so quickly and I think all in all it took about 45 minutes to get the fire out."

She spoke about the investigation: "I just hope we can get justice somehow out of it, just for the fact that they won't be able to do it to anyone else. We've come out of this so lucky that no customers were hurt, no staff were hurt and there was literally no one in the building and the fact that it didn't actually manage to reach the inside of the building because that would have been a catastrophe. Not only would we have lost the businesses but because of what's inside - all the beer gas - it would have blown up."

The burnt out fridge
Police put a crime scene in place and were attending until 4am, the manager said -Credit:Management

The storage unit housed tents which cost thousands of pounds, the manager said, as well as a lot of stock for the businesses as it functioned as their main storage unit. The manager said: "We've got festivals all through the summer to go and do and now all of our tents have been set alight so all the money we've paid to do festivals... we're going to have to try and work something out."

What did the Met Police and LFB say?

Firefighters quelling the flames
Firefighters quelling the flames -Credit:David Nathan/UKNIP

A spokesperson from Met Police said: "Police were called by the London Fire Brigade to reports of a fire in High Street, Croydon, at 8.48pm on Thursday, June 27. Officers and the LFB attended and found a fridge on fire in an alleyway. No injuries were reported. The fire is being investigated as a suspected arson.

"No arrests have been made. Enquiries continue. Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 quoting 8343/27JUN. Alternatively you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or visit crimestoppers-uk.org."

A spokesperson from the LFB said: "Eight fire engines and around 60 firefighters tackled a fire at a restaurant and nightclub on Croydon High Street. Part of an external store room connected to the main building at the rear was damaged by fire. There were no reports of any injuries.

Fire engines raced to the scene
Fire engines raced to the scene -Credit:David Nathan/UKNIP

"Firefighters removed and cooled five gas cylinders to an ambient temperature as a precaution as some cylinders can explode when exposed to heat. Station Commander Steve Howlett, who was at the scene, said: "Croydon High Street was closed to traffic whilst we worked to make the scene safe and we urged people to avoid the area where possible."

"The Brigade was called at 8.32pm and the fire was under control by 9.43pm. Fire crews from Croydon, Wallington, Norbury and surrounding fire stations attended the scene. The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Brigade and the Metropolitan Police Service. "

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