Echo Park restaurant blaze delays owner’s trip to see family in Haiti


George Laguerre was supposed to fly to Haiti on Friday.

The charismatic owner of Echo Park’s popular Tigeorges’ Chicken restaurant had plans to visit the beleaguered nation to see his family and deliver aid through a nonprofit group he heads.

Instead Laguerre spent the morning cleaning up damage from an electrical fire that tore through the roof of his restaurant Wednesday night. Nobody was injured in the blaze, and the fire did little damage to the inside of the restaurant. But a thin coat of ash covered the tables, and the sour smell of smoke hung in the air.

“Yeah, I’ve been trying to go to Haiti for the last 40 days,” Laguerre said as he spread a tarp over a rotisserie and an espresso machine to protect them from rain that could seep in through ceiling holes created by the fire.

Laguerre had initially planned to travel to Haiti in mid-January, but his plans were delayed when a magnitude 7 earthquake shook the capital of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, killing more than 200,000 people and closing the airport.

“There were no flights,” he said. “So I waited, waited. I was all ready to go, and then -- this fire.”

It took more than two dozen firefighters to put out the blaze, according to Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Devin Gales. Fire investigators estimate that the fire, which they believe was sparked by wires in the restaurant’s outside sign, caused $50,000 in property damage and $10,000 in damage to contents. The art space next door, L’Keg Gallery, also was damaged.

Laguerre said that despite the blaze, he feels blessed. The fire could have been worse, he said. And then there’s the lucky fact that none of his relatives in Haiti were injured in the earthquake. They live in northwest Haiti, where the earthquake did little damage.

Laguerre has hired a contractor to repair the roof of the restaurant, which he hopes will reopen within six weeks. When things have settled down, he will take his long-awaited trip to Haiti to plant fruit trees, distribute cooking appliances and “give my people a sense of direction.”

Laguerre, who grew up with 10 brothers and sisters in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, opened Tigeorges’ eight years ago. A Haitian flag tacked onto the restaurant’s wall was unscathed in the fire.