A fire in an empty building on East Bay Street Saturday afternoon tied up traffic and shut down a nearby restaurant for a couple hours.

Contractors renovating a three-story building at 155 East Bay St. reported smelling smoke at 2:44 p.m., Charleston Fire Department Community Educator Ryan Kunitzer said. They called for help after a worker at an adjoining restaurant couldn't put out a fire near an electric service meter with a fire extinguisher. Units from Charleston arrived at 2:48 p.m. and were joined by crews from North Charleston, St. Andrews fire departments, Charleston Police Department and Charleston County EMS, Kunitzer said.

The fire was contained to a small area in front of the building, but smoke spread throughout all three floors. East Bay Street was closed for about two hours while crews ventilated smoke.

Pearlz Oyster Bar was also closed for a while and reopened.

Investigators determined that the fire started in the service meter but had not determined the cause, Kunitzer said.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.