Eyewitness photos and video lit up Atlanta’s LGBTQ online networks on Monday evening with reports that “Las Margaritas is on fire.”
Fire fighters put out the fire as the sun went down, but not before the blaze claimed the two patio areas at the front and side of the building. Damage was also apparent inside the restaurant, according to first-person accounts. The restaurant is closed for business on Mondays, and no one was injured.
“I heard about it when my phone rang, so immediately all the family and friends are calling telling me there was a fire,” Michele Michael Petties, the sister of one of the owners, told CBS46.
“It’s been in the community for over 20 years it is a staple in the community,” she added. “Lots of people, everyone flocks here all the time, and it was just devastating to hear.”
Petties told the news outlet that the family is already talking about rebuilding.
Family and ‘family’
Gay Atlanta’s own Oscar Valdivieso and his mother Marta own the popular eatery that regularly hosts and caters LGBTQ events, including Atlanta’s biggest gay Cinco de Mayo party. The son also appears frequently as one of Atlanta’s top LGBTQ restaurant owners.
Firefighters responded to an original report of a grass fire. As they approached from blocks away, they knew it was more based on huge billows of smoke. Officials told WSB-TV and the Atlanta Journal Constitution that investigators were still working to determine the cause of the blaze.
An outpouring of shock and sympathy appeared on social media for the owners as well as the employees.
“Oscar employs more trans folx than anyone else I know,” local labor advocate James Parker Sheffield posted on Facebook. “So many memories in that place and such a wonderful, kind, hardworking staff. Thinking about all of them tonight. The coming weeks are going to be hard on their families.”