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Goodbye, Brennan's & Balinese [9/24/2008 11:32:00 AM]:
Among the devastation wreaked by that wee hurricane we all just weathered, two local landmarks were hit badly. First off was that (formerly) awesome culinary institution called Brennan's, which apparently was okay flooding/wind-wise but caught fire and burned to the ground while the staff watched, unable to stop the flames. Under normal circumstances, HFD maybe could've put out the fire, but because Ike was bearing down on the city, some fire stations weren't allowed to go out until the hurricane had passed over. By the time they got to the restaurant, it was completely ablaze.

Worst of all, there were people inside when the fire raged through the building, including Brennan's "Wine Guy" James Koonce and his 4-year-old daughter Katharine. Both were severely burned in the fire, making what would have been a tragedy in any case downright horrifying. I can't help but think of my 4-year-old munchkin every time I read/hear about it.

I've got no idea what the fate of the restaurant itself will be -- drove past it this weekend on our way out of downtown, and while the outer walls looked intact, the building definitely looked damaged, and it sounds like the interior's just plain gone. Breaks my heart; the wife and I went there for our first anniversary and had hoped to keep going back. As for the victims of the fire, they're in just as bad shape, sadly; the Brennan's folks have set up a fund for the Koonce family's medical expenses & such, so donate if you can. Here's the details, from the Brennan's Website:

Our "Wine Guy" James Koonce and his 4-year-old daughter, Katharine were seriously burned in the fire. We have set up a fund to help his family during the long recovery.

Any donation would be greatly appreciated, along with your thoughts and prayers.

Fund for Denise Koonce in Trust for James and Katharine Koonce
Please go to www.amegybank.com, for a complete list of our open branches.
You can make a donation at any of the branches by simply giving the account name.

You can also contribute by mail:

Bank by Mail
P.O. Box 4837
Houston, TX 77210-4837

I hope both the people and the establishment can recover; I've got my fingers crossed for the former and am somewhat disheartened about the latter.

Then there's The Balinese Room, which anybody who's watched TV in the past few weeks saw ripped from its moorings on the Galveston Seawall and deposited in pieces on the opposite side of Seawall Boulevard. Like Brennan's, the place was a landmark, an illicit gambling den and home-away-from-home for the likes of The Rat Pack and Howard Hughes back in the old days, and it had finally started coming back to life in recent years after sitting empty for a long time -- bands had been playing there, the place had been cleaned up and made livable again, the whole deal. And now it's utterly, completely gone.

I don't even really know what else I can say. Staring at the pile of timbers and debris on the television screen, my mouth just dropped open. It was one of those places you'd expect to somehow survive anything, y'know? Apparently not. And according to owner Scott Arnold, he won't be rebuilding the Balinese, at least not at the old location or in its old form. The Press has the info here, along with some truly depressing pictures of what little's left. Arnold's also trying to archive the history of the place, so check the Press story for info on that; it's definitely history worth saving, even if the building couldn't be...

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