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From: http://www.phillyburbs.com

Fire closes nightclub
The Intelligencer

April 12, 2005 5:30 AM

A New Hope area nightclub was damaged by a Monday afternoon fire that is expected to leave a void - temporarily, at least - for a tourist haven already reeling from the destructive effects of recent flooding.

The Cartwheel on Route 202 in Solebury, a bar and restaurant known as a dancing hot spot for gay and straight customers alike, will apparently have to close for an extended period of time.

No one was hurt in the fire, which started shortly after 3 p.m. in the basement of the building and caused hours worth of traffic tie-ups on Route 202 and surrounding roads in the New Hope and Solebury areas.

Fire officials said the building was empty when the fire started. They had not determined the cause, although they said it appeared to have started in the basement of the original stone building at the property, which reportedly dates back about 200 years. There was some speculation that it might have started near a basement boiler.

Owner Paul Quintieri wasn't willing to discuss his plans for the building, but at least one business owner predicted an all-out community effort to get the Cartwheel back in business.

"The sooner and faster we get up it up and running...It benefits everybody," said Dan Brooks, owner of the nearby Wishing Well bed and breakfast. "Everyone is concerned that the place reopens."

Many visitors to New Hope who stay at Brooks' inn flock to the Cartwheel. Brooks said the temporary loss would have a ripple effect for him and other area business owners.

After watching smoke coming out of the building, he wondered aloud what could be next for an area hard hit by flooding twice in the past eight months. New Hope business owners and homeowners are still cleaning up from the damage caused by last week's flood.

"It's a triple punch to the New Hope hospitality community," Brooks said. "You start to wonder when is it going to end."

In addition to being a popular hangout, the Cartwheel was also known for hosting its share of fund-raisers for people in need. Brooks recalled events for people who needed a place to live and others with AIDS and other diseases. One of those fund-raisers was planned for April 26.

Although it was known to many as a popular gay dance club, it catered to the straight community as well, said Bobbie Mills. "It's just a place to have fun and listen to music," she said.

Paulie, a three-year Cartwheel employee who didn't give his last name, said it was the only dance club in the New Hope area. One of about 10 to 15 employees, he planned to start looking for another job today.

"It is going to affect the community," he said.

The fire affected many motorists during the Monday rush-hour period. Fire police closed off a stretch of Route 202 leading into and out of New Hope as firefighters fought the blaze. The road was closed until about 5:30 when two of four lanes were opened to traffic.

"It has everybody just about stuck," said Tom Markey, chief of the New Hope Eagle Fire Co., one of at least six volunteer companies that responded.

Markey described the damage in the basement as heavy. Some of the fire damage extended to the first floor of the main building at the property. He said the rest of the building had smoke, heat and water damage. Bucks County Fire Marshal Tom Krutsch said he would return to the Cartwheel today to continue his investigation.

Jim Cannon, a New Hope firefighter who was one of the first inside the burning building, said he expected the restaurant could be closed for quite a while based on the damage he saw.

It was another long day for Cannon and other firefighters who have spent much of the past week helping flood victims.

"We've been jumping," Markey said of the recent workload. "It's either nothing or everything. Right now, it's everything."

Patrick Lester can be reached at (215) 345-3079 or plester@phillyBurbs.com.

From EPGN.com:

Fire damages The Cartwheel

By Timothy Cwiek
PGN Contributing Writer
2005 Timothy Cwiek

The Cartwheel, a popular gay bar and restaurant in New Hope, suffered extensive fire damage April 11. The establishment wasn't open for business at the time of the blaze, and no injuries were reported.

The Cartwheel is located at 6558 Lower York Road, Solebury Township, Bucks County.

Solebury Township Police Chief Richard Mangan said a passing motorist noticed smoke coming out of The Cartwheel's windows, and placed a 9-1-1 call at 3:18 p.m.

He said fire companies from New Hope, Buckingham, Lambertville, Upper Makefield and Point Pleasant responded to the blaze.

He said the blaze was declared under control at 4:30 p.m.

"The flames never went through the roof," Mangan said. "The fire was coming out the windows."

He said the front facade of the building has visible damage.

"The front section of the building is where the main part of the fire was," Mangan continued. "But there's extensive smoke damage throughout the entire building."

Mangan said The Cartwheel will be closed indefinitely.

"It can't operate," he said. "They're going to do a lot of work in there. It's severely damaged . All the food and liquor must be destroyed under the orders of the county Board of Health. The electricity was cut for the safety of the firefighters."

Cartwheel owner Paul Quinteri could not be reached for comment.

Mangan said the cause of the blaze hasn't been determined.

"Preliminary indications are that it started in the basement," he said. "We're trying to determine what caused the fire. We haven't ruled out anything. All avenues are opened at this point until we're able to come up with some determination as to what caused the fire. There is no one direction that we're leaning towards."

Mangan was relieved The Cartwheel wasn't open for business, at the time of the blaze.

"We were very fortunate that it was closed at the time," he continued. "There could have been several hundred people in there. I often worry about something like that. A lot of people go to The Cartwheel. That could have been devastating."

Mangan estimated more than $20,000 in damages to the building.

"Sections of it will have to be gutted," Mangan continued. "But I don't see the entire building having to come down."

Mangan said the blaze tied up traffic for more than three hours.

"We set up an alternate traffic route around the fire scene, using secondary roads," Mangan said. "But it was a traffic nightmare for three-and-a-half hours."

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