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The interior of the Whitetail Tavern was extensively damaged by fire. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Whitetail Tavern fire investigation begins; tape may help

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The investigation into the cause of the Whitetail Tavern fire that partially destroyed the neighboring Velvet Antler restaurant last month began with a platoon of fire marshals, insurance adjusters and firefighters Thursday.

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And one item of evidence may prove invaluable - the establishment's security video.

"I just got done watching the fire," said Nevis firefighter Ron Leyba. "It was pretty interesting."

Investigators have kept mum about the cause, which is not believed to be suspicious.

The fire started in the kitchen between the two buildings that house a sports bar on one side and a restaurant on the other. The establishment is on Highway 34 between Nevis and Park Rapids.

Tuesday the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners refunded the businesses' $1,600 liquor license fee for 2011 after owners told auditor Pam Heeren they didn't know when or if they would reopen.

"They said it would be quite some time before the building is fixed or replaced," Heeren told the board.

The board has set a precedent for not refunding liquor license fees, but made an exception for owner Amie Cannon.

"This is beyond their control," commissioners reasoned.

"It wouldn't be morally right," commissioner Lyle Robinson said. "We don't want to be the deciding factor if they re-open."

If the business decides to reopen, it can apply for a new liquor license as a new business and the license fee would be prorated depending on when the establishment reopens during any year.

Cannon said the insurance adjustors would determine if the building is salvageable.

State fire marshal Mark Germain said, "We just don't talk to the media."

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