A Santa Monica restaurant caught fire Thursday evening after closing early because of some potential electrical issues, according to firefighters and witnesses at the scene.
Firefighters arrived at Coogie’s Cafe, at 2906 Santa Monica Blvd., about 9:10 p.m. after reports of smoke coming from the building. The fire, which started in the kitchen, was knocked down about 20 minutes later.
There was no one inside when the fire started. It’s unclear how much damage the restaurant sustained.
Coogie’s “was open earlier today, and they were having what appeared to be possibly some electrical issues, so they shut down early, and then shortly thereafter is when they noticed some smoke coming from the building and called 911,” said Battalion Chief Marc Rose of the Santa Monica Fire Department.
Karen Mitri, 35, lives nearby and was in Coogie’s earlier Thursday.
She said that she could smell smoke while there and that restaurant staff were trying to figure out where the smoke was coming from. They replaced one of the light fixtures in an attempt to solve the problem, she said.
“I left and everything seemed OK,” Mitri said.
Jose Luis Yescas, a busboy at the restaurant, said workers started smelling smoke about 6:30 p.m. from the light bulbs and about 7 p.m., saw smoke coming out of the bulbs.
Staff started clearing out guests and soon closed the restaurant. Staff then used ladders to check the light fixtures for the source of the smoke. They didn’t find anything, and Yescas left to have dinner while the chef stayed behind.
“On the way back to the train, I came to check on the restaurant, and it’s when I heard an explosion,” Yescas said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
A mixed-use three-story building is set to replace Coogie’s, which has been at the location since 1969, the Santa Monica Daily Press reported. The owner, Lawrence Rhee, died in late February, the newspaper reported.