Close call

Darling downtown Austin cafe temporarily shutters after fire

Darling downtown Austin cafe temporarily shutters after fire

Forthright cafe interior
The owners of Forthright are looking into opening a coffee cart or food truck while they rebuild. Forthright/Facebook
Forthright fire damage Austin
The fire caused extensive damage in the ceiling. Forthright/ Facebook
Forthright cafe interior
Forthright fire damage Austin

Downtown’s Forthright is looking for temporary service solutions after a morning fire on October 25 forced the eatery to close. Co-owner Elizabeth Swail said rebuilding will take at least four to six weeks.

In a statement to CultureMap, Swail said the blaze was estimated to have begun at 10:45 am. Minutes later, smoke was visible and the restaurant was evacuated with no injuries. Due to Forthright’s location on the ground floor of the 21-story San Jacinto Center, a commercial tower in the Four Seasons Complex, the Austin Fire Department deployed 14 units and nearly 50 firefighters.

Although the insurance adjuster has not made a ruling on the cause, Swail said the AFD believes that insufficient fireproofing above the stove allowed a piece of plywood to combust without a spark. The flames were contained in the drop ceiling and did not spread to upper floors.

Most of the damage was structural and confined to the area above the stove, but smoke damage is visible in the cafe’s mostly white interior. Recovery efforts began almost immediately.

“We are all obviously reeling a bit, but we have already made a lot of progress in getting things in order and back on track to open in the near future," said Swail. “There are a lot of moving parts we still don't have answers to.”

In the meantime, Swail, husband Michael, and chef Ashely Neave are exploring options on how to continue serving guests. Possibilities include renting a food truck, setting up a grab-and-go coffee cart, or hosting pop-ups. The restaurateurs might also make use of their off-site commissary kitchen for catering orders and to enable delivery through Favor.

“We are in the hospitality industry and need to be able to continue feeding and receiving our loyal guests, visitors, and strangers alike,” said Swail. “It's what we live for!”

Forthright will continue to send updates as plans develop.