Mezze fire investigation continues

The popular Mezze Bistro and Bar on Water Street sustained extensive damage in a fire this summer and will be closed indefinitely. Williamstown and Pownal, Vt. firefighters responded to a fire at Mezze, one of the few restaurants within walking distance of the Williams campus, at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 12.

In an August report in the Berkshire Eagle, Williamstown Deputy Fire Chief Michael Noyes said that the restaurant was unoccupied at the time of the fire, which originated “in the patio area of the restaurant, close to the bar.” Noyes added that approximately 75 percent of the building sustained smoke and water damage, but characterized the structure as “rebuildable.”

It took approximately 45 minutes for firefighters to extinguish the blaze. Two firefighters were treated for minor wrist and knee injuries, but there were no serious injuries.

The state fire marshal’s office is conducting an investigation into the cause of the fire, which is believed to be electrical. Nancy Thomas, one of Mezze’s co-owners, said that she has not seen the report yet, but called the investigation a “standard practice.” A representative of the fire marshal’s office confirmed that the report is ongoing and no information has yet been made available to the public.

Thomas and William “Bo” Peabody own the insured restaurant. Peabody, a 1994 Williams graduate, founded the web site community Tripod while a student at the College and served as its CEO until its sale to Lycos Inc. in 1998. He was a vice-president at Lycos until last year, when he founded Village Ventures, a Williamstown-based venture capital fund. At the time this article was written, Peabody was not available for comment.

In an Aug. 14 interview with the Berkshire Eagle, Thomas said that the fire “could not have come at a worse time.” The fire struck at the height of a busy tourist season, at a time when Thomas and Peabody were making final preparations to open a new restaurant on the campus of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams.

In a separate interview with the Record, Thomas said that the restaurant, called Eleven, opened as scheduled on August 31 without any glitches.

Thomas also said that she is “currently employing most of the Mezze’s employees at Eleven, except for the chef and the manager, who are busy at work trying to get [Mezze] back in business in Williamstown.” She indicated that Eleven, like Mezze, features “contemporary cuisine” but has more of an emphasis on locally grown food.

“We’re trying to build relationships with Berkshire farmers and Hudson valley farmers. The prices are a little more affordable than Mezze,” Thomas continued.

Thomas said that she and Peabody will “definitely” reopen Mezze in Williamstown, although “the location is completely undetermined at this time.”

“Right now it’s in the hands of insurance companies, our attorney, and our business manager,” she continued. “We have to start turning in documents and preparing paperwork for the insurance company. In the meantime, we hope to keep doing fun things we’ve done with the College at Eleven and to get back in business in Williamstown as soon as possible.”