Soup kettle likely cause of explosion 

No dates set for restaurant re-openings

A faulty electric soup pot was likely the cause of the explosion that shut three popular restaurants in the village last week.

“It is a free-standing unit,” said Aki Kaltenbach, business manager of La Bocca, the Amsterdam Café and Pub and the Brasserie des Artistes, all of which remain closed due to the explosion.

“We don’t know why it exploded, but it has nothing to do with gas issues or electric issues.

“We don’t what was wrong with the soup kettle and that may take a while to figure out, and in the meantime we are going to have to replace it.”

Kaltenbach is optimistic that the restaurants will be open soon but acknowledges that work will have to be done to get the kitchen back in shape and occupancy permits will have to be obtained.

No one was seriously hurt in the incident, which happened the morning of Oct. 7.

One of the driving reasons Kaltenbach wants to get the restaurants re-opened is concern about the staff.

“We are just trying to get open as soon as possible,” she said.

“The employees are what we are most concerned about. It is not a good time to be unemployed and they weren’t prepared for this. We are getting them to help us out with cleaning and making other work available.”

No one has been allowed into the kitchen except to clean out the rotting food that had to be left behind when the incident happened.

Kaltenbach estimates there was close to $40,000 worth of food in the kitchen area.

The stove and roof were damaged in the explosion but there was little other serious damage, she said.

Whistler Fire Chief Rob Whitton said investigators have confirmed there was no fire. However, he said, the restaurant’s fire suppression and ventilation system are being looked at as well.

“I’m not sure when they are going to be able to open at this point in time,” said Whitton.

“There are a number of issues that they are going to have to deal with through the building permit process in order to re-do some of the work that is required.

“And there are some outstanding issues with their kitchen hood systems that we need to clear up, the ventilation and the suppression system that is in there.”

A structural engineer is also expected to inspect the building in the next few days.

Kaltenbach said it was distressing to be closed over the busy Thanksgiving long weekend, but even worse was the deserted feeling visitors got when walking through the area at night.

“Because we are so central to the village to have all the lights out (was) so sad,” she said.

“You don’t realize what a big part of the village we are… so it just looked like a ghost town.”

The long weekend also meant that inspections could not take place, delaying the opening date even further.

The soup kettle is with WorkSafeBC for testing.

“…Soup pots generate steam… and it is steam in a confined space and we are just having the equipment tested right now to determine for what reason the pressure release valve did not work,” said Whitton.

“It is very common in kitchens, and they have been around for a long, long time and this is the first time that I have ever heard of one exploding.”

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