Fire at Roosters Ruled an Accident

H.G. Roosters. Photo provided by A.J. Wasson.

A fire that destroyed the kitchen and damaged other parts of H.G. Roosters in West Palm Beach has been ruled accidental, according to a fire marshal’s report. 

It was determined the fire started in a pile of soiled rags.

“Based on information found at the scene and video footage provided, in all probability, the compilation of soiled rags containing an unknown amount of multiple chemicals, spontaneously ignited, which then caused the smoldering of the surrounding material,” the report reads. 

A.J. Wasson, the owner of the bar, added “It started in a laundry basket where we store bar towels.”

The report noted there was no sprinkler system, smoke detectors or a fire alarm. The general manager of the bar was alerted to the fire because of a Fire Alert through the burglar system.   

Wasson and the staff of Roosters are determined to rebuild the iconic and historic LGBT bar on Belvedere Road. A GoFundMe campaign launched to support their efforts has already raised $55,000. More than 300 people have donated so far. 

Wasson estimates it will cost $300,000 to rebuild the building. 

“I have witnessed our LGBTQ+ and supporters come together for so many years. There are so many memories that were born and shared in the building that's known as Roosters,” said Melissa St. John, the entertainment director. “It’s so much more than a building with a name. It’s what's on the inside that counts. The heart and soul of Palm Beaches LGBTQ+ community. My heartfelt appreciation goes to all who've contributed, called or messaged.”

After the fire on May 19 it was revealed the company's insurance policy had lapsed in April.

“It sucks,” Wasson previously told SFGN. “But it is what it is. I can’t cry over spilled milk.”

Wasson said in April when the insurance policy was about to expire his agent told him it would be $25,000 to renew, and it had to be paid upfront.

At the time the bar was already closed and so he made the difficult decision to keep paying his eight employees and hold off on the insurance.

“That was more important to me than the insurance policy,” he previously said. “I told my guys your rent is going to be paid, and your bills will be paid, and there will be food on your table.”

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