The Stokehouse restaurant was gutted by the fire. Photo: Benjamin Preiss
Iconic St Kilda restaurant Stokehouse has burnt down.
A Metropolitan Fire Brigade spokesman said firefighters were called to the scene on Jacka Boulevard at 11.12 pm Friday night.
MFB investigators are still probing the cause of the fire that has caused at least $1 million worth of damage.
Firefighters remain at the scene of the Stokehouse blaze. Photo: Benjamin Preiss
The fire, believed to have started in the kitchen, quickly took hold of the ground and first floors. More than 200 diners and staff were forced to evacuate as flames engulfed the popular restaurant. There are no reports of injuries.
Seventy-six firefighters remain at the scene of the blaze with spot fires occurring throughout Saturday morning.
Structural issues, including the roof collapsing, have hampered firefighters’ efforts to extinguish the blaze. It took three hours to get the fire under control.
Strong winds coming off the bay fanned the flames at one point, a MFB spokesman said.
Because of the venue's open-space plan and wooden materials, the fire spread quickly. At one point, the intensity of the blaze and structural issues forced firefighters to withdraw.
The spokesman said it was expected that the City of Port Phillip would order the demolition of the remains of the building.
As news broke of the blaze on Friday evening, hundreds of people took to social media to express their shock at the loss of one of Melbourne's most iconic eateries. Singer and television presenter Natalie Bassingthwaighte married husband Cameron McGlinchey at the restaurant in 2011.
The official Stokehouse Twitter account sent a message about 5.30am on Saturday: "Huge thanks to our brilliant staff for evacuating guests safely tonight & thank you for the MSGs of love & support re our beloved Stokehouse".
Huge thanks to our brilliant staff for evacuating guests safely tonight & thank you for the MSGs of love & support re our beloved Stokehouse— Stokehouse (@Stokehouse) January 17, 2014
A Stokehouse waitress, who asked not be named, said the lights went off just after 11pm. Staff and guests were then told to evacuate the restaurant.
"We were hoping everything would be fine and saved, but then we saw flames coming out of the building," she said.
The blaze drew a crowd on Friday night as locals watched the eatery become engulfed.
"It’s like a festival out here," witness Melle Hatzissavas said.
"A Melbourne icon is burning down and it’s brought a lot of people together. People are kicking soccer balls... It’s bizarre and surreal to be here, it’s watching history happen."
Entire F1 paddock in threat of 1st race starvation as The Stokehouse in St kilda has burnt down! pic.twitter.com/EOBIis9rHw— F1 Social Diary (@F1socialdiary) January 17, 2014