vin de set in lafayette square photo by david kovaluk

Vin de Set, 21st Street Brewers Bar and PW Pizza close permanently following fire

Hamilton Hospitality has announced that three restaurants that suffered extensive damage during a September 2022 fire will remain closed permanently. The group confirmed the closure of Vin de SetPW Pizza and 21st Street Brewers Bar, all located at 2017 Chouteau Ave., in a statement released on March 1. 

All three restaurants have been closed since Sept. 19, when a fire started on Vin de Set’s rooftop after a customer seated in a non-smoking area extinguished a cigarette in a hanging planter. The fire destroyed the rooftop deck, but remained largely contained to that area of the building. However, while firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control, the restaurants housed in the building sustained serious water damage in the process. 

A statement from Hamilton Hospitality owners Paul and Wendy Hamilton explained that following the fire, initial structural repairs have been made to the building, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. The work carried out so far included installing new windows and a new roof, as well as removing flooring and drywall. 

However, after considering all the options, the Hamiltons have decided to abandon any plans to reopen the three restaurants. “It became very clear that this was an enormous remediation and rehab undertaking,” the statement said. “Our businesses were built over the course of 16 years through continued reinvestment, and now we find ourselves at the very beginning again. After months of obtaining bids to rebuild and carry out the necessary fire remediation as well as determining the insurance loss limits, it has become clear that the funds necessary to rebuild the structure as it once was just aren't there to do so.”

Paul Hamilton said a key factor behind the decision was that the level of investment required to rebuild the three restaurants is significantly larger than the amount Hamilton Hospitality was able to claim from its insurance policy. “The insurance for the building is just totally insufficient to redo it,” Hamilton said. “We own the building, right after Covid hit we had paid it off, and we just don't want to go back into debt. I’d have to borrow millions and millions of dollars to try to rebuild.”

Hamilton also pointed to the effects of inflation on construction and labor costs. “Sixteen years ago we paid $40,000 to put the roof on, and to have the new roof put on this year it cost me $154,000,” he said. “And the deck that was up there, when we first built it cost us $50,000, and to redo the deck as it was, was close to $250,000.” It’s too late for Vin de Set, 21st Street Brewers Bar and PW Pizza, but Hamilton said there’s a cautionary tale for restaurateurs here. “Look at your insurance coverage and make sure that it's up to date for today's costs,” he said. “We felt we were well insured, but you don’t think about it, it just doesn’t cross your mind that your building could burn down.” 

With those key structural repairs made to guarantee the building’s structural integrity, Hamilton Hospitality is planning to put the 2017 Chouteau Ave. up for sale. “I'm pretty confident it will sell to a developer who will do something interesting there and something good for the neighborhood, so I'm not worried,” Hamilton said. “But yeah, it was a very sad decision to make, one that was certainly not made lightly.” Items from Vin de Set, 21st Street Brewers Bar and PW Pizza that were not damaged during the fire will be put up for auction. 

Hamilton Hospitality continues to operate a number of other restaurants, including Eleven Eleven Mississippi, Hamilton's Urban Steakhouse and Winnie's Wine Bar, as well as event company Moulin Events & Meetings. Hamilton said that staff from the shuttered restaurants who wanted to remain with Hamilton Hospitality were offered roles at the group’s other venues. Additionally, anyone holding a gift voucher for Vin de Set, 21st Street Brewers Bar or PW Pizza may redeem their vouchers at any other Hamilton Hospitality property.