MACHIAS, Maine — The Machias Planning Board quickly approved a permit Monday night to allow the owners of Helen’s Restaurant to rebuild after a fire that destroyed the landmark business earlier this month.
The panel, meeting in a special session that lasted just over 10 minutes, voted 5-0 to issue the permit to residents David and Julie Barker.
The Barkers answered a few brief questions from board members.
The restaurant will be located near the former building on the site, next to U.S. Route 1, but the square footage and parking area will be smaller. In addition, seating capacity will be smaller, allowing for 125 customers compared with 180 in the old building.
The Barkers said they are uncertain when construction will begin and they have not yet selected a general contractor for the project.
In the permit application, they estimated the new building would cost $1 million or more to construct. The application included a preliminary sketch depicting the layout of the building interior, which shows a slightly different configuration than the previous structure.
Firefighters from several nearby communities were summoned to the blaze but were unable to save the restaurant. Guests at the nearby Machias Motor Inn were evacuated but that building was saved.
The restaurant employed about 50 workers at the time of the fire. An online fundraising campaign to benefit workers, which had a goal of $20,000, has collected more than $30,000. A number of benefit activities also are being planned in the community to raise more funds for the restaurant employees.
State officials have waived a requirement that affected employees look for jobs while they collect unemployment benefits, a move that will allow them to be available to return to work when the restaurant reopens.
Barker and his wife, Julie, residents of Machias, estimated earlier that it would take six months to rebuild the restaurant.