Fire closes Riley's, Broken Spoke

Damage from a fire at Riley’s Cafe, 2010 Sylvia Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids, is seen on April 18, 2019. (Courtesy Riley’s Cafe)
Damage from a fire at Riley’s Cafe, 2010 Sylvia Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids, is seen on April 18, 2019. (Courtesy Riley’s Cafe)

A fire damaged Riley’s Cafe, 2010 Sylvia Ave. NE, on Thursday.

Richard Pankey, whose son Phil Pankey owns Riley’s and adjacent restaurant Broken Spoke, said no one was injured, but both restaurants have temporarily closed.

He said they hope Broken Spoke, which shares a dish area with Riley’s, will be able to reopen within a few days, but Riley’s could be closed for weeks or months.

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CEDAR RAPIDS - With temperatures pushing 90 degrees and the heat index even higher, firefighters responded Tuesday afternoon to a fire at Riley's Cafe in downtown Cedar Rapids.

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The fire was determined to be unintentional, Cedar Rapids public safety spokesperson Greg Buelow said in an email. He said firefighters responded at noon, when employees reported a fire in the ceiling above the kitchen area.

“Firefighters arrived on scene and found heavy smoke inside the business and extinguished fire in the kitchen area along a wall and in the ceiling,” he said.

He said the fire was caused by radiant heat exposure that ignited wood behind the stainless steel surrounding the stove. There was food cooking on the stovetop, he said. He said the fire was confined to the kitchen but there was smoke damage throughout the restaurant.

Richard Pankey said further inspection to ascertain the amount of damage will happen in coming days.

“It’s devastating. It’s difficult for the customers, it’s difficult for the staff. The good news is nobody was hurt, nobody was injured,” Pankey said.

Buelow said other adjacent businesses in the same strip, including National Salon Resources and Milex Complete Auto Care, as well as Broken Spoke, were undamaged.


Riley’s Cafe has three additional locations, at 2727 Sixth St. SW, 576 Boyson Road NE and 836 First Ave. NE. Those remain open. Pankey said the Sylvia Avenue location has about eight employees, and the company is hoping to relocate them to other restaurants while that location is closed.

The First Avenue location was the site of a previous fire in September, 2016. That location reopened more than a year later, in October 2018.

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