Unclear when Michael Symon’s Lolita will reopen after fire

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CLEVELAND-- Cleanup is underway at celebrity chef Michael Symon's Lolita restaurant and Symon is vowing to rebuild after fire tore through the Tremont mainstay Sunday afternoon.

Symon said it is all hands on deck “trying to sort through everything, getting employees situated.” For now, Lolita is closed until further notice. Restoration crews removed trash bags of debris from the restaurant Monday morning.

“It's sad looking. It’s not in good shape, obviously, and it’s going to be a while until it's back up and functioning, but we look at that as kind of an opportunity to redo,” building owner Jill Levin said.

Cleveland Fire Department spokesman Larry Gray said flames broke out near the pizza oven in the first-floor kitchen around 1:45 p.m. Sunday. The fire then spread across the second floor, ruining Symon's offices and gutting the roof. The restaurant was not open at the time, and no one was seriously hurt. A firefighter was treated for a minor injury to his ankle, according to Gray.

In a Facebook post Sunday, Symon described the damage as pretty significant, but vowed to be back strong. Monday, he posted, “Thank you all for the overwhelming outpouring of support. You have made one of my worst days in recent memory bearable. Can't even put into words how much we appreciate it."

Symon opened Lola in the space 19 years ago before changing its name to Lolita when Lola moved to East 4th Street.

Tremont West Development Corporation Executive Director Cory Riordan said Symon took a risk on the neighborhood, helping to transform it as Lolita became an “institution.”

“It really was instrumental in starting the foodie scene in the Tremont neighborhood and having a Michael Symon restaurant in the neighborhood is very important and a big win for everybody,” Riordan said. “We know that Michael Symon and his operation are going to do whatever they can to expedite rebuilding, and we'll do everything we can as a neighborhood to assist in that.”

Symon also credited the Cleveland Fire Department for its quick response. Restaurant managers said Monday it's too soon to say when Lolita might reopen.

Meanwhile, other Tremont businesses stepped in to offer support to Lolita employees. Tremont Athletic Club posted on its Facebook page that it’s offering all Lolita employees a free month-long membership.

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