Minn. community still struggling two years after fire destroyed bar

Published 8:22 am Monday, March 19, 2018

ROLLINGSTONE — A southeast Minnesota city is still recovering from a fire that destroyed a rural bar two years ago.

Many Rollingstone residents frequented the Rollin Inn, which was most recently known as Legends Sports Bar and Grill, the Winona Daily News reported. The bar was a place where the community gathered for town functions, to connect with neighbors and to celebrate life events.

“Literally it was the Friday night place to go with your family for dinner,” resident Rachel Larson said. “It was a family gathering place.”

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The town is struggling to stay connected now that the bar is gone, some residents said.

“You don’t see your neighbors as often. … That’s where people used to see each other,” Larson said. “There have been people I haven’t seen since the bar burned down.”

Some have looked into rebuilding the bar, but have been met with many obstacles. It could take more than $500,000 to rebuild up to code, said cafe owner Bonnie Rae Wardwell.

“There’s so many rules and regulations,” she said.

Even without a building, the property has become a meeting center for the community. The community held a “Last Call” gathering on the empty lot nine months after the fire. People brought food, wood for bonfires and drinks. More than 60 people attended, said Crystal Hodge, one of the organizers.

“It was such a great night,” Hodge said.

The Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s office says the cause of the fire is still undetermined and the case remains open.

“Unfortunately, it is still undetermined,” Rollingstone fire chief Brian Speltz said. “Which kinda sucks, because as a town, we can really use closure.”