Pilsen restaurant destroyed by extra-alarm fire

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An extra-alarm fire destroyed Nuevo Leon, a popular restaurant that was in Pilsen for more than 50 years. No one was injured, but the owner was inside when the flames broke out.

"I felt the heat of the building. I had to get out right away, ran out," Daniel Gutierrez.

Firefighters said the two-alarm blaze started around midnight at the three-story building on West 18th Street near South Laflin Street. Thirty-nine fire companies and 100 fire department personnel worked to contain the fire, which was extinguished around 3:30 a.m.

PHOTOS: Nuevo Leon engulfed by flames

The fire spread quickly, jumping over to the neighboring building after a broken gas main flared up. The cause is still under investigation.

Gutierrez said he is worried about his 60 employees, who are now out of a job just before the holidays.

"Most of my coworkers, they've been working here for the past 20, 30, 40 years," Susana Colon, Nuevo Leon employee, said.

"It's devastating. A lot of us, we have family. It's the only place we depend on," Jhoan Camarena, Nuevo Leon employee, said.

The close-knit group of employees rushed to the scene when they heard about the fire. Gutierrez's grandparents opened Nuevo Leon 53 years ago. He said he and his father work at the restaurant seven days a week.

"Generations over generations, we have tried to commit ourselves to great service and great food and make everyone feel at home," Gutierrez said.

Some restaurant owners are offering employment to Nuevo Leon works during the holiday season. Chicago Alderman Danny Solis, Ward 25, said the city is trying to find temporary space until they can rebuild.

"The idea is to expedite as soon as possible. All the permits so they can open up so those 50 plus people that are working there and have worked there most of their lives, they have a job," Ald. Solis said.
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