By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A popular restaurant in Minnesota cabin country is gone after a massive fire. It happened just before 3 a.m. Wednesday morning in Emily, north of Brainerd, when flames destroyed the Bungalow Tap House.

Residents say the historic building was more than a restaurant to the community.

The Bungalow Tap House is typically packed around the Fourth of July with people from all corners of the state, but this year visitors are coming by to see what’s left.

“It’s a landmark,” Emily Fire Chief Kenny Roden said. “Everybody’s had parties here, and family functions.”

The structure, built in 1903, became a gathering space in Emily’s small town of 800 people. Darrel Genz owned the restaurant for 22 years.

“I was devastated,” he said. “Twenty fire trucks here, smoke like you wouldn’t believe — that was about all I could handle.”

A neighbor saw flames Wednesday morning and called 911. It took roughly 40 firefighters to battle the blaze. Once it was out, a firefighter lowered the flag — which still standing — to half staff.

“One of my captains did that,” Roden said. “It’s hard on me, you bet.”

Owner Chris Spindler says he plans to rebuild.

“We’ve gotten a lot of help from the community. We’re excited about that,” he said.

In the meantime, regulars haven’t stopped their horseshoes night at The Bungalow. They’re preparing for a an outdoor celebration for Emily Day In July, making sure the destruction doesn’t take away the spirit of a neighborhood hangout.

“We’re going to try to clean up the mess,” Spindler said. “We’ve got two weeks, but we’re going to try to get it done.”

Firefighters think the fire started in the dining room. The cause is under investigation.

Kate Raddatz