LAKEVIEW — Nine months after a fire broke out at Diner Grill on Christmas Eve forcing it to close, the rebuild process has begun.
Construction crews started work Friday morning, knocking the roof off the structure at 1635 W. Irving Park Road that has housed the 24-hour diner for 78 years.
Owner Arnold DeMar said he wanted to get to work on rebuilding the restaurant right away, but the city held up the process considerably.
"It took five months to get a building permit," DeMar said. "The building permit was finally issued on June 20. And then they wanted the diner to have one-and-a-half-inch water lines, and it's had three-quarter-inch water lines for 78 years. That took another four weeks; we just got the permit for that on Monday.
"Now hopefully we're at full-blast," he said.
The interior of the Diner Grill is completely empty, and only three walls of the original building remain. [DNAinfo/Ted Cox]
Beloved as Diner Grill has become, even its biggest fans may not recognize it in its current state. The interior is completely empty, and as of Friday, it has no roof.
"There's nothing inside; it's all gone," DeMar said. "The city is making us take down one wall, so the only thing remaining is the east, west and north walls. The rest is all new. The roof will be new, the plumbing is new, everything. It's going to be the new old diner, or the old new diner, I don't know which."
Though the road to rebuilding has been long and frustrating for DeMar, he said he's excited to finally be getting the work done necessary for re-opening.
"I've been fighting with these people for six months," he said. "So it feels really good."
DeMar hopes to be able to open sometime in November, but he said realistically he's aiming for Dec. 1.
The Diner Grill had become known as a favorite spot for members of the food industry who got off work late and would come to the diner at the end of their shifts.
"The rest of the time, it's normal people like you and me," he said after the fire in December. "We appreciate their business, and we look forward to seeing them again when we open back up."