Fire closes Bellevue breakfast icon

by: Frank Field Updated:

BELLEVUE, Wash. - A sign in front of Lil’ Jon Restaurant turns patrons away with a simple message: “Closed due to kitchen fire.”

Bellevue firefighters are still trying to figure out the cause of that fire, but they say it will keep the Eastgate establishment closed for about a month.

Firefighters got the call around 1:40 a.m. that smoke filled the dining area and there was fire in the kitchen.  The call came from a janitor working at the restaurant. 

The Bellevue Fire Department said a language barrier made it hard for dispatchers who took the call to understand what was going on, so they sent a crew on one fire engine to investigate the call. That engine got to the scene within five minutes and saw smoke and fire in the kitchen area and called for backup. 

Within 30 minutes, firefighters had the blaze out.

 “By the time the fire was deemed under control 30 minutes later, the entire kitchen was heavily damaged by, smoke, fire and the water used to extinguish it,” said Bellevue Fire Dept. Lt. Michael Luquette.

Luquette estimated the damages at about $475,000.

Lil’ Jon opened in 1967and has been owned by the same family.  

The Sjolander family declined to be interviewed, but a message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page said: “Sad to announce that due to a late night fire in the kitchen we will be closed until further notice. Everybody is okay and we will be working hard to re-open soon.”

Customers who arrived for the restaurant’s well-liked breakfast food, no-nonsense service and cinnamon rolls bigger than a softball, were saddened by news of the fire and felt bad for the owners and employees.

“That's not good,” said Dwight Offer, who’d arrived for coffee.  “But you know this the kind of place that'll weather it reasonably well. They get quite a bit of traffic."

The owner of a Dairy Queen across the street from Lil’ Jon, William Su, said he hoped the restaurant would open soon. 

"(I) feel horrible for him. Lil' Jon has been in Bellevue forever. It's an institution around here. So you hate to see a fire like this,” said Su.

Members of the owner’s family gathered outside as fire investigators looked into the specific cause of the fire, and promised they would reopen as soon as possible.