Chris Younge desperately wants to start rebuilding The Little Lion, which sustained severe water damage as firefighters battled the devastating blaze in Old City last month, but he still hasn’t been allowed into his Chestnut Street restaurant.
That doesn’t bode well for his staff of 80 or so people, many of who’ve been out of work since late February. A new fundraiser set for March 15 will help.
Recovering from the February disaster has been slow going. Complications have arisen in the demolition of 239 Chestnut, which was gutted by the fire — before it can be knocked down, the building next door needs to be stabilized. Then there’s the investigation into the cause of the incident, which has the Philly Fire Marshall and ATF painstakingly examining all materials on site.
Younge definitely plans to reopen, he said, so he’s been trying his best to find his crew temporary work, and to find ways to cover their payroll until things are up and running again.
“I’m trying to put everyone in a position to be able to come back to work with me when this thing is over,” he said.
He personally covered the most recent pay period, meeting some of the crew during the storm on Wednesday to hand out checks. Additional relief funds are coming from a successful benefit party held at the beginning of March, which raised more than $18,000 for the cause.
And although no insurance payments have come through so far, Younge is confident they will.
“One thing I learned from the past is to never try and save money by getting cheap insurance,” he said, noting that he dealt with two major water leaks during initial construction that set Little Lion’s launch back six months.
“We had to redo the mezzanine and chef’s counter twice before,” he explained, “so we have good coverage with Utica First, and I’m sure they’re going to come through for us.”
But that could take time, and more funds will be needed in order to sustain all those temporarily unemployed for another two months (or more) until the restaurant reopens.
Now, Younge’s friend Bruno Catrambone is stepping up with a benefit concert at Bourbon & Branch in Northern Liberties.
Catrambone’s band, Cruisr, has gained national acclaim. They won’t officially be performing — out of respect for contracts with labels and promoters — but the materials for the March 15 show hint at a “secret headlinr” who’ll follow Catrambone’s other group, Former Belle, on stage.
“They haven’t toured in a while, but have an enormous following,” Younge said, “so it’s really cool.”
Said Catrambone in a post about the event, “The Little Lion [is] a place that has been very important to me over the past few years, opened and run by close friends & family.”