The owner of an Aberdeen café that was severely damaged in a deliberate fire this weekend said she has been “overwhelmed” by community support, and vowed to reopen to customers as soon as possible.
The emergency services were called to the Park Café in Hazlehead Park shortly before 9pm on Friday after reports of a blaze.
A total of seven appliances were sent, along with a high-reach vehicle and command unit, and firefighters worked late into the night to bring the situation under control.
Police are treating the incident as wilful fire-raising, and are looking for anyone who may have seen what happened or was in the area when the blaze started.
‘I had no idea it meant so much to so many people’
Although the fire caused severe damage all throughout the property, owner and manager Pat Kennedy said the venue is still salvageable, and repairs will start as soon as possible.
Mrs Kennedy, who rents the premises from the council and has owned and managed the business for nine years, said she wanted to thank the emergency services for their efforts, and the public for offering her words comfort.
She said: “I’m still reeling a little bit to be honest, it feels somewhat surreal.
“We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of messages through social media, I just couldn’t stop crying and when flowers came to the door, I was so overwhelmed.
“I had no idea it meant so much to so many people.
“At the end of the day there’s no loss of life and nobody was hurt, and we can always rebuild.
“The firefighters were absolutely amazing, as were the police and the forensics teams.
“It’s been confirmed that it was a wilful act, so hopefully we will see what happens from there.”
Mrs Kennedy continued: “Structural engineers have been in, and they’ve confirmed the structure of the building is not damaged.
“When we did the original refurbishment, we put in steel beams and the new roof, so thankfully that’s all withstood the heat of the fire, so it’s really just a case of rebuilding inside and out and we have every intention of doing that.
“We opened up the kiosk on Saturday to give the fire and police services a coffee and a wee bit of a heat, but we’re hoping to be operational from next weekend from that kiosk.”
‘We will start rebuilding as soon as we get the go-ahead’
Mrs Kennedy also owns the café in Duthie Park in the city, and said staff from the Hazlehead venue will be able to pick up shifts there while repairs continue.
She added: “It’s a bit early for a timetable right now, but we will start rebuilding as soon as we get the go-ahead.
“It’s so dear to us all, and it’s a home from home for our staff, who are really like one big family.
“We want to welcome everybody back with open arms as soon as we can, but in the meantime we’ll still have the café at Duthie Park.”
Detective Constable Alan Gordon, from the Aberdeen CID, said he is keen to hear from anyone who was in the park between 7pm and 9.20pm on Friday evening who may have seen anyone “hanging about the café or acting suspiciously nearby”.
He said: “The park is a popular place and well used by dog walkers and people out for a stroll or run.
“If you have any information that may assist our investigation, please call Aberdeen CID via 101.”
Crimestoppers can also be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.