Canes Unscathed

The latest on Canes: it’s open for business, and the $2 million damage estimate from a July 17 fire was “way too high.” But the most significant news from owner Eric Leitstein is that he may retain the café/bar/music venue that he founded 13 years ago.

“The fire couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” says Leitstein. “Our busiest month is August. Our employees were literally crying about how they weren’t going to be able to pay rent.” So Leitstein, his managers, and a restoration company mobilized to reopen. “There were crews of electricians and plumbers running around everywhere. They threw a lot of bodies at it. Our management team and myself worked day and night.” The bar was open by the following Monday, and an auxiliary kitchen serving a shortened menu was up and running within a week. “We lost 75 percent of our business the first week. The TV and newspaper accounts scared a lot of people off. They thought Canes had burned down. Now we’re down about 20 percent, but everyone is back to work. The only thing that’s not open is our old kitchen and our offices.”

Leitstein says that arson was ruled out. “But everybody’s pointing fingers as to what caused it.”

He says that insurance companies are looking at a grease fire that traveled up the hood work to the roof. “The hood work was cleaned thoroughly three weeks before the fire. They are still investigating.…”

Eek-A-Mouse, who was scheduled to headline the night of the fire, “has been rescheduled to September 5.” Leitstein says that Canes has dates booked through October but that all dates after October 31, when Leitstein’s lease runs out, are uncommitted “holds.”

Earlier this year it looked as if a takeover might be in the works. Landlord Tom Lochtefeld would not commit to a lease renewal with Leitstein, who openly discussed the possibility that he may move Canes and its liquor license. Leitstein said that he had other possible locations in mind.

Lochtefeld has a 99-year lease with the city to control the Belmont Park property, which includes Canes. Lochtefeld also owns the WaveHouse, which is adjacent to Canes and has booked bands to play during the summer months.

Leitstein says that the once-cold relationship between landlord and tenant has thawed. “I don’t know which way it will go…all I can say is we are talking now. We are working toward a resolution.”

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