A small fire broke out at Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen & Bar late Saturday and caused the LGBTQ-owned restaurant to temporarily close.
Some 15 to 20 patrons were in the dining room of the College Park restaurant shortly after midnight when the kitchen fire started, according to co-owner Gee Smalls (photo left).
“My kitchen staff was cleaning one of the fryers and all of a sudden there was a burst of flames from the gas line in the back,” he told Project Q Atlanta. “It went up in flames for about 30 to 45 seconds before one of my cooks put it out.”
The restaurant’s manager escorted patrons out of the building and the fire department arrived. No one was injured in the incident, which Smalls posted about on the restaurant’s Facebook page on Sunday.
“The damage was the pipe that had the leaking gas that busted,” Smalls said. “Other than that, there wasn’t any damage.”
“The biggest loss was having to close on the busiest day of our week, which is Sunday brunch,” he added.
Virgil’s remains closed Monday for repairs and cleanup. The restaurant will reopen Tuesday morning, and a previously-scheduled New Year’s Eve party will take place that night.
Smalls and his husband Juan (photo right) opened the 2,000-square-foot restaurant in June. It is named after Gee Smalls’ late father, Smalls told Project Q in April. The restaurant honors the Gullah-Geechee culture, which is most common among African Americans who live in the Lowcountry region of Georgia and South Carolina.
Juan and Gee Smalls are co-founders of the Gentlemen’s Foundation, the non-profit best known for the Gentlemen’s Ball fundraiser.
Photo by Russ Bowen-Youngblood