Arson suspected in Mounds Park Lounge fire

Someone, it seems, has it in for the Mounds Park Lounge, the old-time bar built in 1947 in the Dayton's Bluff neighborhood.

The building sits at 1067 Old Hudson Road, facing south to Interstate 94 near the intersection of Earl Street and Old Hudson Road.

The lounge's surveillance footage from the early hours of Saturday, Jan. 11, shows a masked man calmly breaking a front window and throwing in a flaming object.

From there, the flames slowly ate away at the inside of the bar, causing extensive smoke damage, and melting the cash register, televisions and other objects. Smoke poured out the broken window.

The acrid smell of burned plastic permeates the interior, and everything is covered in soot.

"This is a bad start, but it's not the end," said Bill Spiess, soon-to-be owner of the place, who's been leasing the establishment and fixing it up since the fall of 2013, when it closed.

According to Spiess, the fire started around 2:30 a.m. Jan. 11.

It took a couple hours, when someone happened to walk by and call 9-1-1, for the St. Paul Fire Department to be called to squelch the blaze, he said.

Fire department officials had not returned phone calls to confirm details by press time.

Spiess said that the bar had previously seen an attempted arson a couple of months back, and said he suspects it may have been the same person. He installed surveillance cameras after the first attempt.

"We took care of that and we figured, he wouldn't come back."

Spiess said the bar has been closed since September 2013, when a buyer defaulted on a contract-for-deed purchase of the building. He had been aiming to get it reopened in mid-February as a sports bar.

Now, with extensive damage, repairs will be needed on everything from the floor to the ceiling, to the roof and the boiler. He's hoping he'll be able to get it all fixed up and open by June.

In terms of financial loss, the current building owner should have the damages mostly covered under an insurance policy, Spiess said, but the details remain to be worked out. Could be the place will be spiffed up, with a new furnace, new flooring and other repairs as a result.

Spiess will proceed with buying the building despite the setback -- he's set to close on the purchase on Feb. 14. He's hoping it will be a fruitful retirement investment.

Finding the arsonist

The surveillance video doesn't provide much in terms of a clear picture of a suspect, but Spiess is hoping it will help find the person responsible.

"It might be a long shot," he said, "but it's a shot."

Because the arsonist was on foot, Spiess thought it might be someone from the neighborhood.

"I know one thing," he said, "it's someone who doesn't know me. Because it's not going to stop me."

Patrick Larkin can be reached at eastside@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7816.

Bill Spiess, soon-to-be owner of the Mounds Park Lounge, talks about a Jan. 11 arson that devastated the bar.

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