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Texas Roadhouse arson pulls workers together

7:35 PM, Nov 29, 2012   |    comments
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Up to a $1,500 reward is being offered to find out who set the fire that closed a West Knoxville this week.

A police officer spotted the flames at the Texas Roadhouse near West Town Mall early Tuesday morning.

Arson investigators with the Knoxville Fire Department have determined that someone deliberately set the fire outside the building.

With the doors closed during the busiest time of the year, managers and employees said they are eager to get the restaurant open as soon as possible.

"Our employees do more than just one thing, they do a lot of things. And they have a lot of heart, so they're working hard in every way they can so we can pay them inside the restaurant. And again, [we're] trying to find them some shifts at other locations," said Ginny Matteson, co-manager.

The entrance needs to be rebuilt, seats were torn out of booths, and burnt rubber mats were strewn on the dirty floor as workers put gloves on and scrubbed walls.

"They're still giving us the opportunity to work and get paid for this, which is amazing. I mean, not all restaurants would do that for you, and we just want to get this place back to what it was," said Jessica Julius, who has served there since August.

Managers handed the surveillance video over to arson investigators, and the focus shifted to clean-up mode Thursday as the number of employees helping clean the inside of the building grew.

Outside, a crew who helped build the restaurant 13 years ago started tearing down roofing and frames.

Restaurant managers hope to reopen by next Friday, regardless of whether arson investigators track down whoever sparked the fire.

"I would urge anyone to call if they did know anything because there are almost 100 people who care and love this place, who are wondering what's going to happen with their place of work," said Matteson. "This is their home away from home,"

There is a $1,500.00 dollar reward for anyone with additional information leading to the arrest and convection of the persons involved. Please call arson investigators at 865-637-1386.

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