UPDATED: Anchor Inn fire cost put at $500,000 to $1 million

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Andrea Behling
Monday, August 4, 2014

NEWVILLE—Edgerton isn't Edgerton without the Anchor Inn.

That's what people are saying about the popular riverfront bar that received $500,000 to $1 million in damage in a fire Monday morning, employee Tiana Eastman said.

The bar at 718 E. Highway 59 in the town of Fulton is “close to a total loss,” the Rock County Sheriff's Office said in a news release.

The fire started in a void above the kitchen, according to the release.

“It's such an old building, and there's so many different hot pockets,” said Dawn Kinnett, who owns the bar with her husband, John Kinnett.

The cause has not been determined, but investigators cannot rule out an electrical problem, according to the news release. The building did not have sprinklers, Dawn said.

The sheriff's office, state fire marshal and a fire investigator from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms helped in the investigation, and “there is no evidence of a crime being committed,” according to the news release.

The building's original structure dates back to the 1860s, John said. The Kinnetts have remodeled and done numerous updates since they bought the bar in 1996, John said. The bar sits along the Rock River just a short boat ride from Lake Koshkonong.

“There's a lot of history in this place,” said Josh Eastman, who has been an employee for nine years.

The Kinnetts plan to rebuild.

“We're not going anywhere,” Dawn said.

John, Dawn and a dozen employees and friends gathered Monday afternoon outside the taped-off bar waiting to get a glimpse of the damage inside.

As they waited, ideas bounced around for the new bar that the Kinnetts plan to build.

“New ideas, new layouts, new floor plans,” Dawn said.

And the same chicken fingers, an employee chimed in.

John said he hopes to have backhoes tearing down the building as early as Thursday.

The bar has about 15 to 20 reservations this summer that might have to be canceled, including wedding receptions and reunions.

John hoped he and his wife could figure out a way to host them.

“If we can get the grounds cleaned up, I think we can pull it off,” John said.

Most of the damage was contained to the kitchen and attic areas, Dawn said.

“It's worse than you could ever imagine,” said Tonya Eastman, a family friend of the Kinnetts who helped clean out the salvageable items in the bar. Tonya is Tiana and Josh's mother.

The business' hard drive and many office items were still intact, Eastman said.

The bar's outdoor area was not damaged, so the Kinnetts hope to keep the boat launch, rentals, outdoor tent and the outdoor bar, The Mermaid, open for the rest of summer, John said.

“It's too bad this had to happen in August,” Josh Eastman said.

Firefighters were dispatched to the Anchor at 3:58 a.m., according to a release.

A Rock County dispatcher said the Edgerton Fire Department was in command. Crews from a number of area departments, including Janesville, were called to help.

Highway 59 in the immediate area was closed for about four hours. One lane reopened about 8 a.m. Traffic around the scene remained congested for a few hours.

The bar employs 40 or 50 people, many of them college students, John said.

One of the first things to come to John's mind after he saw the damage was how upset one of his employees would be.

“He just got a raise last night, and he was truly excited, the most anybody's ever been,” he said.

John also was worried for some of his other employees who rely on the Anchor Inn as their summer jobs.

“Some of these kids are going to school and need the money,” he said.

That's the way the Kinnetts tend to think, even in situations like this, employee Mary McCall said.

“I was crying this morning because you just feel so bad for their family. They're such a good family. They're always helping out the employees and the community,” McCall said.

Frank Schultz and Jim Leute contributed to this story.

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