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Copacabana Fire Leaves Businesses in the Dark for Days

By Jill Colvin | December 2, 2011 2:33pm
The Copacabana still smelled strongly of smoke on Thurs., Dec. 1, 2011, after the fire.
The Copacabana still smelled strongly of smoke on Thurs., Dec. 1, 2011, after the fire.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

MIDTOWN — An electrical fire at the new Copacabana nightclub has left some Midtown businesses in the dark.

On Tuesday night, an electrical fire broke out at the newly opened supper club on Eighth Avenue, at 47th Street, about 9:45 p.m., sending 100 party-goers flooding into the streets, fire officials said.

While the damage was minimal, half a dozen small businesses in the building, including an Irish pub, sandwich shop, deli, electronics store and liquor store, have been left without power — and owners say they’re losing tens of thousands of dollars every day.

"We can't open. It's a blackout," said Michael MacNamee, 37, the owner of the Mean Fiddler pub, which was packed with about 200 customers Tuesday night when he started smelling smoke.

Andrew Floratos holds up the flashlight and candle he's been using to help customers peruse merchandise.
Andrew Floratos holds up the flashlight and candle he's been using to help customers peruse merchandise.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

"Everyone lost power. There was panic. Everyone started running out," he said. "Upstairs you couldn't see with all the smoke."

But far worse than the fire, business owners say, is the fact that the power’s remained out, forcing them to keep their doors shut, toss out thousands of dollars worth of perishables and pay staffers to stay at home.

"We threw everything out. Everything [was] garbage," said Jameel Ali, 36, owner of Carve sandwich shop, which is usually open 24 hours.

On Thursday, signs in the store’s darkened windows read, "Sorry we have fire electric problems. We will be open soon," as workers cleaned inside.

"We are losing our minds," added Ali, a dad of three who said he didn't even want to think about how much he'd lost.

The reason for the lasting outage is not entirely clear. Business owners blamed a dispute among their landlord, insurance companies and Con Edison over who’s responsible for fixing the equipment damaged in the fire.

"When the customer-owner makes the building's electrics safe, we will reconnect the building," ConEd spokesman Chris Olert said.

The landlord could not be reached for comment.

Owners said they were originally told the power would be back on Thursday, but were later informed it was looking more like Tuesday of next week.

In the meantime, MacNamee estimated he’s losing $10,000 every day, and is bracing for the possibility that power won’t be restored before the weekend rush.

"Hopefully we get open. We’re praying,” said MacNamee, who said he’s considering renting a generator to power his space, but is worried about liability as well as cost.

At the Copacabana, which spans the building’s second and third floors, rooms still smelled heavily of smoke Thursday afternoon as staff worked, vacuuming tiger-print carpets by flashlight and candlelight.

There appeared to be other damage to the building, with several windows boarded up and coverings torn.

A member of the Copacaban management team who asked that his name not be used said the venue plans to reopen Friday night for a pair of holiday parties, using generators for power.

Others in the building have found different ways to cope.

Andrew Floratos, 61, who has run Andy’s Deli for more than 30 years, has tried to salvage some of his business, lighting candles and hanging torch lights from the ceiling, and using a flashlight to help customers peruse items.

While his cash register isn’t working because of the outage, he's now using a small box to make change for customers.

"We need the money," said Floratos, of the Upper West Side. "We have bills to pay.”