Throngs of tourists walked past Mac’s Place on East Bay Street, the front doors of the Irish pub thrown open wide to greet the masses on a day of crystal blue skies.
But the barstools sat empty, the taps dry. The usual banter of the barroom had been replaced Wednesday by the drone of fans and air sanitizers working to clear the musty smell of smoke and charred wood from the premises.
The previous morning, a fast-moving fire did a number on the next-door neighbors at 213 East Bay, a two-story building housing four bars.
Mac’s Place suffered collateral damage from smoke and water, but Assistant Manager Ann Mangum didn’t expect to be out of commission nearly as long as her friends at 213’s clubs — Light, Squeeze, The Brick and The Speakeasy.
“We should be open by (today) or the weekend at the latest,” Mangum said.
Not so at 213 East Bay. The fire gutted the top floor and sent the roof cascading down into the belly of the building, exposing the innards to the elements, with hunks of charred timber and twisted metal framing the scorched mess.
Signs plastered on the building’s front windows announced that the city has declared the building unsafe.
So much so, in fact, that Charleston fire officials have suspended their probe into what caused the fire, not wishing to place investigators in jeopardy.
Fire officials plan to work with insurance adjusters and investigators to determine the best way to stabilize the structure and continue their inquiry, Charleston Fire Marshal Mike Julazadeh said.
That process could take weeks, he said.
Officials plan to gather today to further evaluate the scene, Julazadeh said.
A fenced walkway has been erected outside the banged-up building, giving pedestrians passage around the facade and its grungy sidewalk.
“What do you suppose happened here?” one visitor inquired Wednesday, snapping a picture with her iPhone.
Locals already were well aware of the blaze, word spreading rapidly over social media, with patrons and competitors alike offering condolences and support to the shuttered clubs.
A host of people changed their Facebook profile pictures to a pink square containing “213 east bay” in a show of solidarity.
The fire broke out around 1 a.m. Tuesday and sent brilliant flames leaping into the darkness.
Firefighters won praise for keeping the fire from spreading to neighboring buildings, but smoke, water and structural concerns still kept neighboring tenants from their offices, apartments and businesses for many hours.
Wet Willie’s, at 209 East Bay, was back in business Wednesday morning, and the apartment dwellers upstairs had returned to their quarters as well.
Down the way, at 215, tenants in the Maritime Building also were back in their offices, though fans and air purifiers remained a necessity.
Amanda Ward, who works in a fourth-floor law office, said the lingering smoke made her eyes sting so badly that she had to run out at lunch to grab a new pair of contact lenses. “My eyes were watering,” she said.
Christina Elmore contributed to this report. Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.