Latrobe fire was arson; building owned by police officer
State police fire marshals say that a late-night blaze at the Grub and Pub on Ligonier Street in Latrobe was arson.
Their investigation stretched on through Friday afternoon as store owners and employees from nearby bars and restaurants waited outside on Ligonier Street for news.
County detectives, Latrobe police and city firefighters assisted in the investigation. The state police K-9 unit was called in to search for an accelerant at the building.
State police Trooper Seth Helman would not comment on the type of accelerant used.
“That's my ace in the hole,” he said.
Helman said his investigation, including the K-9 search and video and photos from the fire, led him to conclude it was arson.
Westmoreland County tax records indicate the property is owned by city police officer Jeffrey Regula. He could not be reached for comment.
There was a fire earlier this month at a four-unit apartment building at the intersection of Main Street and Truman Avenue, which also is owned by Regula. State police fire marshals interviewed Regula on Friday morning.
Detectives spent most of the morning and afternoon interviewing store owners and employees in Scotty G's Pizzeria, two doors down from the Grub and Pub.
The fire in the 900 block of Ligonier Street started around 8:45 p.m. Thursday in a vacant apartment above the Grub and Pub at 903 Ligonier St.
At the time of the fire, there were about four people inside the bar and another 10 inside the Latrobe Athletic Club next door on Main Street.
Firefighters battled the blaze for four hours.
“It was stubborn, with very heavy smoke and heavy fire,” said Latrobe fire Chief John Brasile. “We chased it around a while.”
The building had been remodeled several times with drop ceilings and several layers of roofing material, making the blaze difficult to battle.
There were no injuries in the fire, Brasile said.
Grub and Pub bartender Deanna Merenda was in the back of the bar when she thought she heard a bar stool falling. Everything was calm in the bar, but when she went outside, Merenda saw the front of the building was on fire.
The Grub and Pub's ceiling crashed down to the floor, Brasile said. Helman described it as a total loss with about $100,000 in damage.
Two doors down, Scotty G's had minor water damage but remained closed for business because of the ongoing investigation. It should open again this week, said owner Scott Goodlin.
Friday morning, Jessica Beam, owner of the Steel Wheel Grill next door, waited to hear how much damage had been caused to her restaurant, which just opened Feb. 1.
Beam was leaving for the night when her husband, Christopher, spotted the fire.
“It was contained at first, but then it spread quickly,” she said.
The restaurant sustained water and smoke damage, according to Brasile.
The Latrobe Athletic Club was open for business Friday morning despite some smoke and water damage. Co-owner Shari Johnson said there were customers lined up waiting to get in at 5:30 a.m.
“It's like a family here,” she said. “They were worried.”
County detectives and Latrobe police will continue the investigation.
Kate Wilcox is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.