by Nancy Stiles
Many restaurants were closed Monday, January 6, because of the snow and cold, which turned out to be a good thing for Vito's in the Valley (138 Chesterfield Towne Center, Chesterfield; 636-536-3788). Around 8 p.m. that night, a fire-supression head between the roof and the ceiling burst and dumped 2,000 gallons of water into the dining room. Luckily, no one was at the restaurant because of the closure.
"It could've been a lot worse. I wasn't saying that yesterday, but it could've been a lot worse," owner Gio La Fata tells Gut Check. "It literally feels the same as if you went home and your house burned down and you didn't know, and walked in and everything was gone."
The fire department showed up quickly, La Fata says, but it couldn't get in because the restaurant was locked. For some reason -- perhaps because the restaurant is only a few months old -- La Fata's information was not updated, and they couldn't get a hold of him. Instead, they were forced to stand outside and watch the 2,000 gallons of water gush out of the door. The fire department was able to turn off the water and prevent any more damage.
La Fata was only aware of the accident Tuesday morning as he got in his car to drive to Vito's; an e-mail popped up on his phone with the subject "Possible Water Damage at 138 Chesterfield Towne Center." There is, of course, water damage, not to mention two "gaping" seven-foot holes in the dining room ceiling.
The kitchen was completely untouched, so La Fata says that should make construction easier. His insurance company, Liberty Mutual, already has crews out there working; he anticipates reopening at the end of the month, possibly on January 24.
Vito's in the Valley also has payroll insurance, so La Fata's 30-odd employees don't have to go weeks without pay. "I feel horrible for the restaurant and my family, but that also includes my employees and their families -- that's who I feel mostly for," La Fata says, "the guys that have kids like I do, and they dont have insurance for this. So luckily, I do."
La Fata says usually the worst part of something like this is the insurance company trying to dodge paying for anything, but fortunately that hasn't been the case. "Construction crews are already working on tearing it down and rebuilding," he says. "We'll be bigger and better around the end of the month."