Fire-hit Yarmouth restaurant owner promises to reopen

Stephen PullingerA couple have vowed not to be beaten by a blaze that devastated their restaurant business and flat.Stephen Pullinger

Stephen Pullinger>

A couple have vowed not to be beaten by a blaze that devastated their restaurant business and flat.

Fred Bennett, 60, and his wife Gill, 45, took over Gilfreds Restaurant in Regent Road, Yarmouth, five years ago and spent �40,000 refitting and decorating the interior of the three-storey property.

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Following the blaze on Monday afternoon, the couple, presently staying in a nearby guesthouse, face missing a whole season of business and are unlikely to be able to move back into their home for six months.

Mr Bennett, who also runs the nearby Great Eastern pub, said: This blaze has caused damage well over �100,000. But we have no intention of leaving Yarmouth. This is our home. The message to all our loyal customers is that we will open again.'

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It had originally been thought the blaze might have been caused by oil in the kitchen but Mr Bennett said it turned out there was no evidence of fire damage there. A fire investigation had proved inconclusive but it appeared that it started in the basement.

Mr Bennett is convinced it was the work of an arsonist and police confirmed a man has been arrested, questioned and released on bail.

He recalled that the smoke alarm had gone off at about 4.10pm when he was watching snooker on the television.

'I opened the door in the corridor and there was a wall of smoke. There was no sound of flames and it was eerily silent,' he said.

After dialling 999, the couple waited for the fire brigade and they were rescued through their first-floor lounge window.

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