Update: New things ahead at site of burned bar

Update: New things ahead at site of burned bar
An excavator sits next to the burned shell of the Pit Stop bar in Greenwood. Now that the sale is official, the demolition of the building is set to happen in the next few weeks. 

The building that housed a bar in Greenwood for many decades, and more recently stood out as a charred wreck disfiguring West Market Street, has been sold.

The new owners reached settlement earlier this week on the property where the remains of the Pit Stop stand, and demolition was set to begin immediately.  

Town Manager Janet Todd said Wednesday night at the town meeting that the town had collected fines owed by the previous owner at settlement, although she didn't specify who had paid.  

Julleanna Seely, the real estate agent who helped broker the sale, said Thursday that the buyer was a local investor but did not give the buyer's name. Online property records had not been updated as of Thursday afternoon.

"Hopefully, within  a couple of weeks, that will be a completely clean property," Seely said.

The buyer does not have a specific plan about what to do with the property, she said, but future options could include retail space or apartment rental.

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The sale of the bar is a story of connections and coordination. Seely said the homebuilding company she and her husband own is putting up a house near the former bar, and Pit Stop owner Gerald Wells reached out to them to see if they had any interest in the bar property. Seely was then able to coordinate the sale with the local investor through her role as a Realtor for Keller Williams Realty, and arranged for demolition to begin right away.

"Honestly, we just want to get that property cleaned up so our downtown can continue to thrive and come back to its vibrancy," she said.  

The former bar building in Greenwood, pictured just before a hearing on an appeal of the demolition order. 

The sale may put to rest a contentious chapter in Greenwood. Wells and the town had been at odds with each other in the past, and town meeting minutes from Oct. 14, 2020 show complaints from residents and local property owners about bar patrons' behavior, including fights and reports of feces and vomit in the parking area out front. But the bar had allies among area residents as well.

The May 18 fire happened right after a 47 ABC news report about the controversy. Fire crews fought the fire for hours, and were able to save the neighboring buildings except for some minor damage. The blaze was later declared to be an arson; the fire marshal's office has not released any further information about the investigation.

The town then ordered Wells to demolish the building. Wells appealed, and at an August hearing pleaded for a chance to rebuild, saying if the town made him demolish the entire building he wouldn't be able to get another liquor license.

"I want to have a good relationship with Greenwood; I want to have a good relationship with police," he said, apparently alluding to tensions with the town before the fire.

As the victim of a crime, he argued, "my rights have already been horribly impacted." The fire caused an estimated $500,000 in damages.

James Sharp, an attorney for the town at the hearing, repeatedly focused on the issue of whether the building needed to be demolished, saying it was a narrow issue before the Council and the building's use was a different matter.

After listening to Wells and some of his supporters testify, the Council read a lengthy, pre-written motion to proceed with the order, and unanimously approved it. Town Manager Todd and others pointed to the bad condition of the building and safety issues it presented.

The deadline for owner Gerald Wells to start demolishing the bar was Sept. 24, but no demolition was done and at a September meeting Todd said he had not applied for a demolition permit or communicated with the town.  

The fire has had a ripple effect on other area businesses. The building next door at 13 West Market got smoke damage and some minor fire damage. Eventually the tenants, Amity Coffee Roasters and Wilderlove Handmade and Vintage, moved out.

Wilderlove has reopened nearby. Amity's owners hope to reopen by December just across the street. Another antique shop, the Greenwood Treasure Trove, opened recently in the 13 West Market building, which the business purchased from the former owner.

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