VASSALBORO, Maine — Fire investigators concluded that a fast-moving blaze that destroyed a topless coffee shop in Maine was deliberately set.
The state fire marshal's office made the arson determination Wednesday afternoon after investigators sifted through the rubble of the Grand View Coffee Shop in Vassalboro, north of Augusta. Officials aren't saying how or where the fire started.
The fire was reported just before 1 a.m. by an ambulance that happened to be driving past. It took about 50 firefighters from eight communities to douse it.
Owner Donald Crabtree escaped unharmed along with six others. He said the fire seemed suspicious, coming just hours after he appeared before the town's planning board.
"I don't even dare to say at this time," Crabtree said.
At the shop, waiters and waitresses without shirts served coffee and doughnuts. Crabtree had met Tuesday night with planning officials to discuss adding a disc jockey, expanding parking and extending the hours of operation.
Crabtree said he spent $277,000 buying and renovating the former motel. It wasn't insured, he said.
The shop's opening in February raised the ire of dozens of local residents. Someone recently called police to complain that a waitress was outside the business without a shirt. An ordinance was proposed to regulate nudity at local businesses.
While many people dropped by Wednesday morning to show support, it was clear that others were pleased about the fire, said Paul Crabtree, the owner's brother.
"It's sad to see people driving by and acting happy about it," he said.
Steve Cooper, of Vassalboro, stopped to peruse the damage while passing by on his motorcycle. He had never been in the shop, but said it was a shame the fire had put people out of work.
"I don't think the business was doing any harm," he said.
A waitress at the shop, Krista MacIntyre, said the job was the best she's ever had. She hopes the fire doesn't put the shop out of business.
"We should keep on going, get back up and make it an even bigger place," she said.
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