Hundreds of people gathered Tuesday for a groundbreaking ceremony for the reconstruction of the Red Bar in Grayton Beach. The building burned to the ground in February following an electrical fire.
GRAYTON BEACH — Nearly eight months after burning to the ground from an electrical fire, a Walton County staple will be reborn from its ashes.
On Tuesday, hundreds of people gathered on the barren site where the Red Bar once stood for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of its reconstruction.
"It's very symbolic, obviously, to put the shovel in the ground, but it also puts a date on a new beginning, and that's really exciting," said Oliver Petit, co-owner of the establishment.
With construction slated to begin Wednesday morning and run until about next Memorial Day, the new building will mirror its predecessor's eclectic vibe exactly — other than some improvements to the kitchen and bathrooms, Petit said.
PHOTOS: View photos from the day of the fire >>
The ceremony's many guests included Walton Commission Chair Tony Anderson, who shared that the business held a special place in his heart.
"I first came to this building when I was 6 years old," he said. "I've been coming every year since. ... This was devastating for me and a lot of other people when it burned down."
As a Red Bar regular, Anderson added that the business wasn't just a South Walton attraction, but an icon of the entire county.
"It's just life-changing, and the Petit family has made it that way," he said.
According to Walton Planning Director Mac Carpenter, the "historic day" stemmed from a combined effort of Red Bar staff, county officials and many concerned residents.
He labeled the ceremony as the "rebirth of Grayton Beach.
"The news of the fire traveled all over the world, and it just shows what kind of reach this community has," Carpenter said.
In the months to come, the new building will be molded after the original blueprints, Petit said.
Following the ceremonial dirt shoveling, he spread ashes from the renowned hangout spot that he plans to bring back to life.
"When it burned, it felt like a family member had passed away," Petit said. "It was a way to put closure on this event. ... From those ashes, we can expect a rebirth like the phoenix."