MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The owner of St. Cloud’s Press Bar and Parlor, which burned down last month, is charged with intentionally setting the business on fire.
Forty-year-old Andrew Welsh, of St. Joseph, faces two counts of first-degree arson, court documents filed this week in Stearns County show.
According to a criminal complaint, investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined that the Feb. 17 fire started on Welsh’s office desk, which was set alight with accelerant. The flames spread to the rest of the building, which had stood in the city’s downtown area for more than a century. Firefighters weren’t able to save it.
Surveillance video showed that Welsh was the last person to leave the building, located on the corner of 5th Avenue and St. Germain Street. Inside Welsh’s truck, police found a bottle Ronsonol lighter fuel.
Investigators say Welsh had a financial motive to burn down the business, which he was being forced to sell as part of a divorce last year. Welsh had a $1.3 million insurance policy on the bar.
Family and friends showed up to support Welsh in court Tuesday where his attorney said his client poured money into the place for improvements and professed his innocence.
“He’s a small business owner supporting his family. He has no criminal history. He’s done absolutely nothing wrong,” Welsh’s attorney, Ryan Garry, said.
At a court appearance Tuesday, Welsh’s bail was set at $200,000 with the conditions that he has to give up his 40 guns and passport. He also cannot leave the state and must check in with officials every 48 hours.
Welch could face decades in prison if convicted.