Fire won't beat us, say restaurant couple

Stephen PullingerA 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, Great Yarmouth, five years ago and lavished �40,000 on refitting and decorating the interior of the three-storey property with Mr Bennett doing nearly all the work himself.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, Great Yarmouth, five years ago and lavished �40,000 on refitting and decorating the interior of the three-storey property with Mr Bennett doing nearly all the work himself.


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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: 'When I sold my transport business and retired at 55 this was our baby. Gill is in charge of the restaurant and I have been steadily improving the building.

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'In October I finished the last room, an office upstairs, and I was ready to play golf this summer. Now this blaze has caused damage well over �100,000.'

However, he vowed not to be beaten by the fire which caused such widespread smoke damage everything will have to be thrown away.

He said: 'We have no intention of leaving Yarmouth, this is our home, and the message to all our loyal customers is that we will open again.

'And I want to thank the firefighters and police who have been brilliant in their after care and the traders round here who have been so supportive offering us cups of tea and so on.'

It had originally been thought the blaze might have been caused by oil in the kitchen, but Mr Bennett said it turned out that there was no evidence of fire damage there. A fire investigation has proved inconclusive but it appears 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 and questioned and released on bail.

He recalled that the smoke alarm had gone off at about 4.10pm when he was watching world 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 by ladder through their first-floor lounge window.

Mrs Bennett said their five members of staff, many of whom had been with them since leaving school, were also affected. Their tenant in an adjoining flat had also lost his home.

She said: 'We had had a busy Sunday and we were all geared up for the summer season getting under way this bank holiday weekend.'

They had built up a loyal customer base of locals and holidaymakers and had just invested in equipment - all destroyed - for running a lunchtime carvery.

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