A fire Thursday morning destroyed a popular restaurant and banquet center at Conneaut Lake Park.
Just after 2:30 a.m. Thursday, flames ripped through the Dockside Banquet facility and Beach Club Restaurant at Conneaut Lake Park. Nine fire crews responded after a boater reported the fire, and it took three hours to get the fire under control.
As firefighters remained on scene throughout the morning spraying hot spots, people showed up to see the damage for themselves.
“We were gonna ride the boat over, just to see from the lake point of view, because it’s going to look so different,” said Kim Blackmare, who is visiting the area from Chicago.
The Beach Club stood in the same spot for 77 years and the Dockside Banquet facility was recently renovated.
“It was just a great wholesome place to grow up and to be,” said neighbor Ronald Reed.
Reed taught in Farrell for 35 years, but the Beach Club was one of his first employers.
“So then I started thinking about the memories I had from years back. I started off when I was 18. I learned how to tend bar there in the service bar,” Reed said.
The restaurant was a staple for many visitors.
“We came over to the park a lot. When our children were growing up, we came a lot. Spent hours here. Loved the fries,” said Wanda Smith of McDonald, who was visiting the park.
Both buildings are a total loss.
“Oh my God. I feel so bad. I wish I had millions and millions of dollars to say ‘here, please rebuild everything,’” said Kay Skripac of Coitsville. “It was part of the experience. Part of the entire experience was coming to Conneaut Lake and coming to the park and buying French fries and souvenirs. It’s very sad.”
The Pennsylvania state fire marshal said it’s too early to determine a cause and the fire remains under investigation.
And as firefighters cleaned up the remains of the Beach Club, crews spent the day trying to revive the adjacent amusement park. A film crew for the Travel Channel is in town to capture the efforts of the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park.
The group took over the entertainment complex and is trying to restore the midways and rides to their former glory. The Travel Channel is filming until Saturday.