A fire Tuesday night at Balena forced management to evacuate the acclaimed Lincoln Park Italian restaurant. No one was hurt, but ownership is calling the damage extensive and the restaurant will be closed as repairs are made. A 911 call was made around 7 p.m. to the 1600 block of North Halsted Street.
The fire’s cause appears accidental, as a Boka Restaurant Group spokeswoman said it was electrical and started in the ceiling. Boka’s Kevin Boehm was on the scene Tuesday night and told WGN-TV that the dining room was full. Balena is a collaboration between Boka and B. Hospitality Co. The damage also spread next door to the offices at the Royal George Theatre.
There’s damage to the kitchen, upstairs dining room, and main dining room. Boehm posted a statement on Instagram: “Unfortunately the damage at Balena is considerable. A sad night for us on Halsted. Tomorrow we will roll up our sleeves and start to rebuild her. Thankfully, everyone is ok. In the end, thats all that matters.”
Balena opened in 2012 and earned recognition for homemade pastas and other Italian fare. It’s a fixture on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list. A Boka rep passed along this statement on Wednesday morning:
“Last night, during a full dinner service, Balena had to be evacuated due to a fire in the building. From what we know right now, it appears to have been an electrical fire that was started in the ceiling. The most important thing is that no one was injured, and everyone was evacuated from the building safely.
The damage looks fairly extensive in the kitchen, upstairs dining room and main dining room, however we’re hoping to have Balena re-opened as soon as possible. In the meantime, Balena’s partners at Boka Restaurant Group and B. Hospitality Co. are all working together to reassign all Balena employees who wish to work at other restaurants within the groups immediately.
The response from the Chicago restaurant community has been overwhelming and we are incredibly grateful for everyone’s continued support.
Thank you to the Chicago Fire Department for their immediate response to our 911 call, and for helping to distinguish the fire in a safe and efficient manner.”