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JJ's Staff, Regulars Turn To Each Other In Wake Of Fire

Elana Gordon

Judging by the lineup at the bar a few blocks from JJ’s last night, you might think you were at the longtime establishment. A lot of employees and regulars met up at Coal Vines on the Plaza, including James Potter.

“You know, we just wanted to come out and show them that we support them, that we care about them. I mean, we’re concerned about their well-being,” said Potter, who's been going to JJ's for 15 years.

The community surrounding JJ’s is a close knit bunch, with Potter and others describing it as one big family.

Many are still in shock and find it difficult to talk about what happened Tuesday, but Coal Vines was a place for them to gather. Area restaurants provided dinner.

Jim Ligon wasn’t working Tuesday night but has been a JJ’s bartender for several years.

“I honestly don’t think I’ve really processed the fact that JJ’s is gone,” Ligon said. “It’s weird looking at the footage and seeing just everything in rumbles.”

For Ligon, JJ’s was more than a paycheck.

“It’s the kind of place where I definitely looked forward to going to work every day because I know exactly who I’d see,” said Ligon. “I’d know exactly what they were drinking. We’d get to talk about their days, their weekend. You know, it was just catching up with friends, more than a job.”

Ligon was at home when the explosion happened, but he said he could imagine exactly who was there, hanging out that evening.

JJ’s was that kind of place.

Ligon said since then, being able to connect with the JJ’s community has been essential. He and others formed a ‘command center’ at a bar in Westport during the day. They’ve turned to each other as they try to come to terms with what happened, including the death of a colleague.

“Today has just been catching up with people. Obviously our thoughts are with Megan Cramer and her family. It’s an undeniable loss,” Ligon said. “You know [we’re also trying to] focus on the fact that it could have been so much incredibly worse and feel fortunate for the people who did make it out and the people we do have today, and happy that they’re getting treatment and are in better condition today, in better spirits.”

Ligon says he and others have also found comfort in the hundreds of Facebook notes and text messages they’ve received from people in support. There have been several fundraising efforts, too.

One thing he’s not worried about? Employment. Several area businesses have reached out to JJ’s staff.

“Just, so many job offers,” said Ligon.

But, he adds, “it just sucks that we’re not going to be all together.”

Even so, Ligon says he and others are committed to bringing back the spirit of the JJ’s community.

AUDIO EXTRA: Regulars Reflect on JJ's

regulars vox.mp3
Kevin Tee, Dionna Farbstein, Jim Potter and Patty Nast talk about what the restaurant has meant to them.

Find more coverage of the Plaza fire from KCUR here.

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