Co-owner too distraught to discuss lost landmark
By Tuesday morning, Zydeco’s Cajun Restaurant, a beloved landmark in St. Charles Parish, lay in burned and twisted ruins after an intense fire totaled the building on Memorial Day.
Upon arriving on the scene around 4 p.m., Luling Volunteer Fire Department Chief Craig Petit said they found the family-owned business engulfed in considerable smoke with flames coming out the rear corner.
“It was terrible. It looked fully involved in the roof area,” Petit said.
Cause of the fire is difficult to pinpoint, he added, particularly “because the flames were running rampant in the roof area.”
Petit said there was some speculation that lightning may have caused the fire from an earlier squall that had moved through the area. The origin and cause of the fire is under investigation by the Louisiana Fire Marshal.
Capt. Brian Tauzin, accompanied by two fire marshals, investigated the scene Tuesday morning.
Tauzin declined to comment on the investigation until the Office of the Fire Marshall issues a statement.
Restaurant co-owner Rosemarie Gainey was on the scene briefly Tuesday morning.
Gainey spoke with the marshals at the scene, but said that she was too upset to comment about the disaster at this time.
Nearly 50 firefighters from Luling, Paradis, Des Allemands, East St. Charles and Lafourche Parish volunteer fire departments responded to the blaze.
An attempt was made to fight the blaze from the exterior, but they decided to go through the roof to attempt the flood the building, he said.
“The challenge was the roof structure,” said Petit of cutting through two to three layers of roofing to reach a fire they fought more than five hours.
The building also had crawl spaces from earlier additions that allowed the fire to travel throughout the structure.
The parish was called in to provide equipment to cut through or pull apart the building’s roofs.
Petit, born and raised in the area, said he anticipated the structural issues, as well as had pre-plans showing the multiple roofs, but they did pose time consuming obstacles to reaching the fire. By the time the roofing was cleared, the building was totally engulfed in flames and was a total loss.
The restaurant was closed for Memorial Day so there were no customers in the building at the time of the fire, which Petit called “a blessing.”
Throughout Tuesday morning, a steady flow of people stopped by the burned restaurant to take photographs or simply to see a much beloved place lost.
Shannon “Nicole” Scott of Boutte, a server at the restaurant for more than a year, said, “I can’t believe this is happening. Everybody’s family so I know it’s going to be okay. This is a great tragedy.”
Scott praised the restaurant owners as great employers and recalled how customers would drive two hours to dine at the restaurant.
She added, “I’m not going anywhere because I know they’re going to rebuild. I think it’ll come back and it’ll be bigger and better.”
Gainey declined to comment on whether they were going to rebuild Tuesday morning.
Petit said the building was built in the early 1980s. It survived a small fire in the early 1990s, and he thought it may have survived a tornado with some damage later on. Zydeco’s was the latest name for the location.
“It’s disastrous, and especially when you learn there were 30 to 40 employees there,” Petit said. “It was a popular meeting place for groups like the Rotary. It’s a big loss to the parish.”