CHICAGO – A popular Old Town Italian restaurant was forced to evacuate Tuesday evening during dinner after smoke was spotted coming from its roof.
Fire officials responded to the fire at Balena, located at 1633 North Halsted, Tuesday evening. The Chicago Fire Department said the fire started on the roof and spread to the structure.
The fire was put out around 8:45 p.m. No one was injured and the fire department said no one was found inside when they searched.
A security guard working nearby noticed smoke about 7 p.m. and got someone to get help.
“I smelled food cooking. Usually you know, the restaurant is right here. Then it wasn’t food anymore it was something different that’s when the street, it started getting smoky,” one woman said.
That’s when the woman started shooting video on her phone. The woman did not want to use her name because she was working at the time.
The smoke coming from the back of the roof wasn't necessarily thick but it wasn't the kind of smoke you usually see coming from a restaurant.
She quickly told the restaurant’s valet.
“We were debating whether it was a really fire or not. I was like, ‘Just go in and check with him,’” she said.
The general manager of award-winning Balena came outside and checked out the smoke and quickly made the decision to get everyone out.
The top two floors of the building belong to the Royal George Theater and they were evacuated as well.
“There were never any visual fires in either of our kitchen so we think the fire was above us. They are still trying to figure out what the source of that is,” Kevin Boehm, co-owner of the restaurant, said.
Boehm said the place was packed Tuesday.
“We haven’t had a chance to go in take a look at it, but it doesn’t look great,” he said.
Fire fighters were able to put the fire out fairly quickly but stayed on the scene for hours to make sure nothing reignited.