The fire damage caused to St Kilda's iconic restaurant Donovans is more than double initial estimates but its owners are hoping to reopen by December.
In the days after the fire, co-owners Kevin and Gail Donovan believed the fire caused about $400,000 but the figure has climbed closer to $1 million.
Ms Donovan said they could never be certain exactly how the fire started but investigators had suggested a flare up from the charcoal barbecue may have caused a spark in the canopy vents. The fire gutted the kitchen and office and caused some damage to the dining room and entrance.
Mindful of the fire at nearby restaurant The Stokehouse in January, the Donovans had organised for their restaurant's canopy vents to be cleaned just four days before the fire broke out on Sunday August 24th.
"You can imagine the attention we paid to the canopy after The Stokehouse to make sure it was clean and yet the fire still happened," Ms Donovan said.
She counts herself lucky that the damage was not greater. Ms Donovan said she was thankful that the fire had not destroyed precious memorabilia, collectables and antiques located in other parts of "The Girl" - the couple's nickname for the building. "All the things that couldn't be replaced are saved and the things that can be replaced are burned," Ms Donovan said.
Patrons will be pleased to know the wine cellar was unharmed. In evacuating the restaurant, Ms Donovan praised staff who grabbed the bookings register and checked the toilets to ensure no one was left behind.
She and staff members are now calling each booking personally to explain that they will be unable to fill booking. They are up to late November. Ms Donovan said patrons were offered a list of other restaurants that had offered to try to help Donovans' customers.
Gail and Kevin Donovan have set up a temporary office in their home with the library catering for the finance department, bookings in the loungeroom and the back of the house used as a general meeting and lunch room. Ms Donovan said she hoped to reopen the restaurant in December.
"There is a bit of red tape to get through with the powers that be, but the council and the insurance want to see it get up and running as soon as possible," Ms Donovan said. She was grateful for the kind wishes of customers and the help from Port Phillip Council and others in the restaurant trade.