Flames tear through Forsyth’s Grits Café

awomack@macon.comMarch 19, 2012 

FORSYTH -- A Monday evening blaze gutted the popular downtown restaurant Grits Café, drawing firefighters from neighboring counties to help extinguish the flames.

Flames were contained to the upscale restaurant at 17 West Johnston St., but nearby buildings, including the Rose Theater, may have sustained smoke and water damage, officials on the scene said.

Firefighters were called to the restaurant about 5 p.m., and thick, black smoke billowing above Forsyth’s historic downtown was visible from Interstate 75. By 8 p.m. firefighters were still working to put out the fire, said Chief David Herndon of the Forsyth Fire Department. Grits is not open on Mondays so there were no customers at the time.

No cause has been determined, and no injuries were reported, Herndon said.

Grits Café opened in the 125-year old building in June 1999, according to the eatery’s website.

Herndon said he anticipated that firefighters would remain on the scene putting out “hot spots” throughout the night.

People flooded the downtown square and adjacent streets after learning the business was burning.

Buck Wilder of Forsyth stood in front of the Monroe County Courthouse watching firefighters work. He said he was at the gym when he heard about the blaze. Before Grits Café opened, he owned Left Banque, another restaurant in the same location. He had memories even before that of it being Forsyth Mercantile.

“There’s a lot of history here,” he said.

Consuela Taylor of Forsyth was taking cell phone video of the blaze Monday evening. She said she received a call about the fire and arrived downtown to show her support for the community.

Firefighters from Monroe, Bibb, Lamar and Butts counties also were at the scene.

Staff writer Linda S. Morris contributed to this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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