LARCHMONT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The front of a restaurant façade collapsed right in the middle of the lunch hour Friday in Larchmont, and the owners were thankful that nobody was hurt.
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, the collapse around 12:30 p.m. at Tequila Sunrise on Larchmont Road near Boston Post Road.
Young was the first reporter on the scene. He happened to be riding a bicycle down the street when he heard the crack and saw part of the restaurant thunder down onto the sidewalk.
Suddenly, a pile of bricks and lumber was all that was left of what once had been the front parapet – a once solid wall and overhand faced with Spanish roof tiles covering the part of the roofline that faces the street.
CBS2’s Young took iPhone video of the scene about 10 seconds after the collapse. The first thing he noticed was a waiter checking to see if anyone was under the rubble, but Young had seen the sidewalk beforehand and knew it was empty.
People inside the restaurant were at the windows, and some still had drinks in their hands. A neighbor described what Young and the other witnesses saw.
“I saw the whole façade come down with a poof of dust,” said witness Kerry Federspeil.
One witness said before the collapse happened, she saw a crack at the top of the building before the façade collapsed.
“I saw the crack in the side of the building, I was standing there with my friend,” Erin Ferrarone said. “I went over to the building department and told them about the crack and then my friend, Jen, she went into Tequila Sunrise and told them because there were four people sitting outside and they moved them inside.”
Ferrarone decided to run the photo over to the local building department at the Larchmont Village Hall, while her friend went to the restaurant to tell them they might have a problem.
“I told the bartender, and we came out and he saw it, and then I think the people who were sitting outside went in,” said Jen Barnes.
The restaurant issued a statement on its Facebook page, saying no one was injured in the incident.
“At 12:30 p.m. today, the front signage at Tequila Sunrise fell onto the sidewalk. We are all safe and thankful that no one was injured in the accident. Thank you all for your heartfelt concern and messages!” the statement said.
Ben Aiello owns nearby Auray Bakery and rushed across the street to help.
“We started looking for people, just in case,” he said. “No one would have ever survived.”
Aiello said the outcome could have been far worse.
“Previous to it actually occurring, there were four gentlemen sitting outside,” he said.
Tequila Sunrise is a popular place, Young reported. There are few in the town who have not sat at the tables outside the venue.
Larchmont Fire Chief John Paparelli said a disaster was narrowly averted.
“We got the call of an explosion. That’s how it came in — as an explosion — and when we got here, there was a total collapse of the parapet – as you can see. You said you were witness to it,” Paparelli told Young. “But it came down in practically one piece. So it was difficult to determine if anybody was underneath, because it was one slab of the parapet – concrete, brick and wood. So we did mostly work by hand in the beginning – trying to get some of the debris away so he could see.”
The waiter who moved people in off the sidewalk before the collapse was still visibly shaken hours later. Identified only as Carlos, he insisted he is no hero and did not wish to comment.
As CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported, firefighters said the building had a fire several years ago and it damaged the roof. But they were also looking at whether the terra cotta roof was too heavy.
“In terms of ongoing random inspections, the buildings are inspected by the fire department for fire safety inspections annually, and I don’t have the record right now when that was last performed for the building,” said Larchmont Village Administrator Justin Datino.
Datino said more thorough building inspections do not happen unless work is being done that requires a permit.
“Something like this — a parapet inspection — would not be generally a course of regular inspection unless, of course, it was pursuant to a permit filed for the building for any kind of repairs or modifications,” he said.
Tequila Sunrise’s website said the restaurant will be closed until further notice. Late Friday night, the building was cordoned off with a tarp over the front.
The owners must hire a structural engineer and submit their plans to the town.