This afternoon, Owamni, winner of the 2022 James Beard best new restaurant award, suffered an electrical fire that filled the building with smoke, causing the evacuation of diners and staff. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the incident, but the restaurant is currently closed as the damages are assessed.
The Owamni building, situated along the Mississippi River, is owned by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. The restaurant experienced a power outage this afternoon, says co-owner Dana Thompson, and shortly after it became clear that there was an electrical fire. “We realized it was beyond [a power outage] almost simultaneously, as the building was filling with smoke,” says Thompson. “We called 911 immediately, and the fire trucks were there almost within seconds. We got everybody evacuated. It took them about two hours to get everything under control.”
The cause of the fire hasn’t been established. Thompson and the Owamni team are waiting on a full evaluation by Xcel Energy and the Park Board. The damage isn’t visible on the building’s exterior, but Thompson says it’s pretty significant. It occurred in the “deep, deep bowels,” of the building, she says. “I’m speculating, I can’t confirm this, but it seemed like there was some sort of leakage happening that was affecting the electricity on the bottom floor.”
She notes that historic buildings like Owamni’s come with certain challenges. (Owamni was built on the site of several mill ruins that date to the 19th century — those ruins, namely the mill’s thick stone walls, are incorporated into the building.) “We’re the first tenant in there, and it takes time to work out the kinks,” says Thompson. “We’re so grateful that the damage wasn’t more significant and we were able to catch it as quickly as we did.”
Thompson says Owamni may be closed for up to a few weeks for repairs, but is working closely with the Park Board to reopen as soon as possible. Restaurant staff salvaged as much from the kitchen as they could. “Our incredible team, especially chef Lee Garman, did an amazing job — as soon as we could get back in the building — putting a plan together to make sure that we saved as much food as we could,” says Thompson. “They were rock stars today.”