No foul play in Boathouse fire, according to preliminary investigation

Investigator Rocky Burke with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office looks over the scene of the fire at The Boathouse on Ellis Creek Thursday.

Foul play was not a factor in the blaze that destroyed the Boathouse restaurant on James Island this morning, Charleston Fire officials say.

Public information officer Mark Ruppel said the department's chief investigator has ruled out foul play during a preliminary investigation. It appears the fire started in the kitchen area, he said.

Both Charleston Fire Department and the James Island Fire Department responded to the fire at 1:16 a.m. Firefighters could see the flames 35-40 feet high while making the trek over the James Island Connector, said James Island Deputy Fire Chief Matt Rhoton.

Rhoton said the Charleston Fire Department is investigating.

Ruppel said they hope to have a full investigation completed in about a week.

The Boathouse, located at 1241 Harbor View Road, was formerly Mimi's Cafe and was one of the more popular restaurants outside of downtown Charleston. It was reported in November that Crew Carolina, the owners of the former East Bay Street location of the Boathouse Restaurant, would be taking over Mimi's and its doors closed in late December. The new seafood restaurant overlooking Ellis Creek had opened three weeks ago after a rush of renovations were carried out to get it up and running quickly.

Business was brisk and was showing increases week to week, said Batt Humphreys, communications director for Crew Carolina.

"We are all somewhat dazed by this turn of events," Humphreys said. "We've been very excited since the opening. Customers were excited about both the new look of the restaurant and the new menu."

Crew Carolina is the managing company for the Boathouse at Breach Inlet, the Boathouse on Ellis Creek, Carolina's Restaurant, Carolina Catering and Simply Southern Products. The company entered an agreement to acquire the Harbor View Road property in late 2008. The new restaurant had 38 employees.

Crew Carolina began working on renovations in January to bring the feel of the Boathouse decor and flavors to James Island. Substantial interior work had been done bringing the nautical feel and rich wooden interior to Ellis Creek, similar to that of the sister restaurant at Breach Inlet. Finishing work on a deck side bar and seating was to be complete by this weekend.

"This weekend was what we were waiting for," Humphreys said. "The weather was suppose to be warmer and Food and Wine weekend was going to bring what we felt was the first real launch weekend of the season. Now we'll have to pause to see what we can rebuild from the ruins."