On a typical Friday afternoon, Barn Restaurant & Bar owner Amber Giddings and her staff are prepping for the dinner rush.
“That’s what I’m supposed to be doing right now is getting ready for a fish fry,” Giddings said Friday. “It’s just crazy that that’s not happening tonight.”
Instead, she spent the afternoon speaking with her insurance company and thinking about the future. Five days earlier, a fire destroyed the popular Baraboo restaurant, located just north of Devil’s Lake State Park along Highway DL.
But Giddings said she isn’t going to let the tragedy stop her. Although she doesn’t yet have all the details lined up, she intends to reopen someday.
“It is my intention to try to rebuild this and to try to do it as fast as I can,” she said.
The eatery — known for its unique dishes and vast beer selection — originally was a horse barn owned by the Ochsner family. It’s been a restaurant for the last 70 years, and Giddings has owned it for the past 12.
The old stone structure that was the heart of the barn remains standing after the fire, and Giddings said she is hopeful that she can rebuild within that framework.
Although the upstairs hayloft, roof, kitchen, server station, office and walls are destroyed, Giddings said portions of the restaurant remain. That includes the front entrance room, bar, deck and a nearby willow tree.
Giddings said she has heard from numerous friends and patrons offering assistance. She wants them to know the support is appreciated and she will reach out when the time is right.
One of Giddings’ Baraboo High School classmates, Erin Halvorson, has started a fundraising effort to help with the rebuilding effort.
Halvorson said she has known Giddings for most of her life and was a fan of the restaurant. As a small business owner herself, Halvorson said, she can sympathize with what her friend is going through.
“I thought, you know, that’s really sad that it’s gone,” she said.
As of Friday evening, a GoFundMe drive Halvorson set up to help Giddings rebuild had raised $3,000 in donations toward its $100,000 goal. A silent auction is planned Monday during the First Night event at the Baraboo Arts Banquet Hall.
Giddings reported a break-in at the restaurant the night before the fire occurred. She posted pictures of a broken window and a small trash can with partially burned papers and hand towels, suggesting an attempted arson.
However, Giddings said she isn’t going to speculate about whether the burglary the night before is connected to the fire. She wants to let investigators do their work and hopes they can get to the bottom of what happened.
She said she can’t think of anyone who would have a motive to destroy the restaurant.
Sauk County Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Jeff Spencer said Friday that authorities still are investigating to determine the cause of the fire. Aside from that, agencies have remained tight-lipped.
Baraboo Fire Chief Kevin Stieve and a spokesperson for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ field division in St. Paul, Minnesota, did not return phone calls.
The sheriff’s department would not release an incident report related to the break-in at the barn that reportedly took place the night before the fire. Spencer said the document could not be made public because authorities are actively investigating the incident.