Fire damages, closes bayside restaurant Catch 54 -- watch video

One of a handful of restaurants owned by local restaurateur Matt Haley was heavily damaged this week in a fire that started on Tuesday evening, while staff and patrons were in the building. Firefighters from the Roxana and Bethany Beach volunteer fire companies were dispatched to Fenwick Island’s Catch 54 about 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 2, and found the building heavily engulfed in flames.

Ocean City and Bishopville, Md., fire departments, as well as the Frankford, Millville and Rehoboth Beach fire companies also responded to the scene, where it took firefighters almost an hour to get the blaze under control.

Catch 54 and SoDel Concepts co-owner Matt Haley said that he did not have an idea as to how the fire started and would wait to hear the Delaware Fire Marshal’s official report.

“The most important thing is nobody was hurt. The staff and customers all got out safely,” said Haley. “It was amazing how professional our staff acted in the situation to monitor what was happening — helping people in and out of the building, getting everybody safe.

“Just the way our staff reacted to this was absolutely amazing and we couldn’t be more proud of them – especially the young ones and how they maintained their composure and professionalism.”

Haley said that, of the approximate 60 staffers employed at Catch 54, around 35 were working when the incident occurred. He added that his job now is to support his employees, and said he will keep them working in some of his other restaurants.

“All of our co-workers will be at work tonight in our other restaurants,” he said. “That’s one of the nice things about having multiple units, is that everybody will have jobs and positions within our company.”

In the interim, Haley said, he and his staff are now looking ahead and will “absolutely” be back at Catch 54 – hopefully, he said, in the fall.

“We’ll be starting clean-up tomorrow and start rebuilding next week.”

Haley added that he and Catch 54’s manager, Bryony Zeigler, have already received an overwhelming outpouring of support, for which they are truly grateful.

“Bry and I, we’ve received probably over 300 emails and text messages already today from people offering their support, help and sympathy,” he said on Wednesday. “Just the reaction from the community reiterates why we’re so proud to be a part of southern Delaware and the Sussex County community, because they’re the people here who are being fully supportive of us, given what’s happened here. It makes us truly proud to be a part of this community.”