Restaurateur hopes to rebuild after Grosse Pointe fire

Owner Jai-Lee Dearing is holding a benefit for employees Friday at his not-yet-open downtown location of Rockefellers

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

Restaurateur Jai-Lee Dearing was forced to close two of his businesses after an upstairs apartment in the same building caught fire Sunday morning.

Located on Mack near Nottingham in Grosse Pointe Park, Rockefellers Oyster Bar and Bootleggers Whiskey Bar are closed after the blaze, which Dearing said started in an upstairs apartment after a space heater was knocked over.

Dearing, who is a tenant and doesn’t own the building that caught fire, is opening a second location of Rockefellers in downtown Detroit at 1315 Broadway. He said his plan was to open before the North American International Auto Show in January, but now he feels pressure to open sooner.

“We weren’t pressured to open (the new location),” he said. “But now we’ve got plenty of employees a month and a half before Christmas out of a job.”

Dearing said Rockefellers in Grosse Pointe Park brought some diversity to the neighborhood.

“That’s something that was new to Grosse Pointe ... that was a big issue out there. It was a place where you could come and get some diversity, a little culture, live music,” he said. “We would like to rebuild.”

Dearing says the insurance companies are currently doing an investigation and he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to rebuild at this point. Bootleggers has extensive damage, and Rockefeller’s banquet room and kitchen is “all caved in.”

“The second dining room...that part is pretty much a wash right now,” he said.

To try to help his employees who are out of work, Dearing is hosting a fundraiser at the not-yet-open downtown Rockefellers on Friday. From 7 p.m.-midnight donations will be accepted ($20 per person is suggested) and there will be appetizers, a cash bar and music from a DJ.

Additional details can be found at the restaurant’s Facebook page.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up for one of the families displaced by the fire.

(313) 222-2402

Twitter: @melodybaetens