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Firehouse Bar & Grill opens in Kilgore

By Richard Yeakley
Feb. 28, 2014 at 11 p.m.

KILGORE - After two-months and thousands of man hours of work, The Firehouse Bar & Grill opened Friday with a special ceremony and a jaws of life ribbon cutting.

"We had firefighters that spent literally thousands of hours in here to get this done by tonight, and up until two days ago, we were concerned that we weren't going to be able to open, but we did, and we are very proud of our product and very happy that y'all are coming in to experience (it)," said Kilgore Fire Chief Johnny Bellows before throwing open the doors of the renovated eatery.

The restaurant was revamped after the Kilgore Fire Department took over the Meadowbrook Country Club, now known as the Meadowbrook Golf and Events Center at 1306 Houston St.

Under previous management at the restaurant, then known as 1306 Bar & Grill, patrons had to have a membership to the country club and all meals included an 18 percent gratuity charge. The new grill is open to everyone and charges "reasonable" prices for hamburgers and other grill food.

"We have two firefighters per shift that will come out and help ... whatever needs to be done," Assistant Chief Michael Simmons said. "Really, because it is the 'Firehouse' we want them interacting more with the public and the kids and helping wherever needed. They will be up here on one of our booster trucks so if a fire call comes in they will just leave on a booster truck and respond."

Sue and Wayne Bass were two of the first to sit down and open a menu.

"This is what you call entirely different," said Wayne Bass, who donated the wood for the custom-made tables.

Sue Bass said her husband had been a member, but had ceased his membership because the country club had been only for the city's richer residents.

They praised how inviting the new center was.

"(It's great to) see the public coming in and going, 'Wow, this is cool,'" Simmons said.

City Manager Scott Sellers said the day was important for Kilgore.

"We are preserving an asset that means quality of life for our citizens, a new destination for the city and a vibrant golf course and community center for a long time to come," he said.

The Kilgore City Council placed the fire department in charge of the restaurant at the former country club in November.

While it is not uncommon for Texas cities to own a golf course - Eagle Golf, with which the city used to contract for the country club, helps manage seven in Texas - Simmons' idea to place the club under the guidance of the fire department is unique.

In addition to the firefighter-themed bar and grill, officials dedicated a firefighter memorial Friday.

The memorial will honor local and national firefighters killed in the line of duty.

"It's kind of closure," said Lanea Perkins Cope, the sister of Kyle Perkins who was one of four Kilgore firefighters remembered with a moment of silence.

Perkins, along with one other employee, fatally fell from a ladder truck during a training exercise.

Cope painted the mural on the side of the renovated grill and said the members of the fire department were like brothers to the family.

"Today we are here to honor firefighters," Bellows said. "What they have done in the service of the community. We are very fortunate to have generations of firefighters that have gone on before us."



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