Katz Diner owner hopes to rebuild

Chef Doug Katz estimates that it may take six months to re-open the Katz Club Diner.

Photo credit: The Form Group

Two weeks after an early-morning arson fire engulfed the bar car of the Katz Club Diner, owner Doug Katz said, “We definitely hope to rebuild,” but estimated it would be six months before his business will be able to move back into the building. “It's unknown as far as what dates or when I can reopen,” said Katz. “It’s just too early.”

On Oct. 7, fire crews responding to a call at the Katz Club Diner found the bar car on fire. Within 20 minutes, fire fighters had extinguished the fire, but the bar car sustained extensive damage. The state fire marshal soon ruled that the fire was deliberately set, and the Cleveland Heights Police Department quickly made an arrest in the case, announcing the next day that James T. Warholak, a Cleveland Heights resident and former diner employee, was in custody and charged with aggravated arson.

Commenting on the arrest, Katz said, “I’m happy that he’s in custody and he’s been indicted and there’s a process to it. It’s my want to sort of stay out of that aspect of it. I don’t want to have my life absorbed by it or taken over by that. I’d rather look at the positive side, where we’re working with the insurance company to rebuild.”

“I appreciate everyone’s support—it’s been so overwhelming in a good way," said Katz. "To me, that’s what Cleveland Heights is about. It’s a real community with authenticity. Unfortunately something like this happens in real communities.”

Katz reported on the day of the fire that the business’s diner car and kitchen remained intact, but did sustain smoke damage. Catering operations, formerly run out of the diner’s kitchen, moved over to Katz’s Shaker Square restaurant, fire food and drink.

With the fire kitchen “definitely too tight,” Katz wants to rebuild as soon as possible, but said, “There’s a lot of questions and a lot of leg work and research that we have to do. I’m someone who really believes in authenticity, so one of my biggest challenges is that I don’t want to just rebuild a structure that looks like a diner car. We have a lot of demolition work to do first and we have a lot of detail in terms of what to do exactly—whether I can find an actual diner car. I don’t think it has be a 1952 [car] exactly, but there has to be authenticity to it. I don’t want to create something that’s sort of a fake.”

Richard Stewart

Richard Stewart, president of Digizoom Media, is vice president of the FutureHeights Board of Directors. Kim Sergio Inglis, editor-in-chief of the Heights Observer, contributed to this article.

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Volume 7, Issue 11, Posted 11:05 AM, 10.28.2014