Amid the ashes of bingo hall fire, shock and worry

It’s been one shock after another for Roxborough resident Christine Lutz.

She lost her longtime boyfriend in August to esophageal cancer. His mother was recently rushed to the hospital after suffering a third stroke. And the VFW Bingo Hall she’s been managing since her boyfriend died somehow burned to the ground last week.

“I’m not doing good, let’s put it that way, I’m not doing good at all,” Lutz said. “I just want it all to be over; it feels like a nightmare.”

The bingo hall, Pinki Nails, Lucky Star and a cigar shop were all destroyed in an early morning fire at the shopping center in the 8900 block of Ridge Avenue last Monday. Fire officials say they are still investigating the cause of the fire.

“Pictures, my leases, my checkbooks, my safes, bingo machines, light boards, tables, chairs…,” she said while fighting back tears. “It’s over close to $200,000 worth of damage.”

Lutz took over operations at the bingo hall after her boyfriend, the owner of the building, died in August.

“I tried to improve it, I put a wall up and a light fixture,” she said. “I tried to make things better.”

But the situation isn’t looking so good for her or the other eight employees of the Roxborough bingo hall.

“I had a girl call me last night saying she can’t even make her rent; she can’t afford it,” Lutz said.

Representatives from the shopping center’s various insurance companies climbed through the debris to assess the damage on Friday afternoon. As Lutz watched from the parking lot, she couldn’t help but remember what the burned-out structure once was. 

“We carried about 30 people at a time, it was a family in here, that’s all it was,” Lutz said. “I miss it so much and I hope and pray that when this is all built and over with, they will all come back.”

For now, as local residents continue to drive by with jaws dropped as they check out the damage, Lutz waits for answers about what sparked the fire and how to start rebuilding a beloved neighborhood spot. 

“If it does ever get rebuilt, I want it the same exact way; I don’t want anything changed,” she said. “That’s the only way I’m gonna have it.”

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