WEST RICHLAND — Owners of a West Richland Tex-Mex restaurant that was destroyed by fire Saturday night aren't sure what's ahead for their business.
The owners of L&M Tex-Mex Mexican restaurant, which had a regular crowd that couldn't get enough of its tacos, didn't have insurance.
"We have gotten a few calls from customers ... that they want us to bring the restaurant back," said owner Blanca Barbour, 25, of Kennewick. "We have really great customers that come in and we knew a lot of them that came in every day. ... Everybody wants us to bring it back."
Barbour took over running the restaurant about a year ago from her mother, Louie Mercado, 56, of Kennewick. Its fifth anniversary would have been July 8.
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The fire broke out in the restaurant at 5339 W. Van Giesen St. at about 8:20 p.m. Saturday. The restaurant is in a strip mall with about a half-dozen businesses.
Benton Fire District 4 crews were dispatched, and the first unit found flames coming from a kitchen window, said Interim Chief Bill Cherwien. Firefighters from Benton fire districts 1 and 2 and the Richland Fire Department were called to assist.
"It could have been much, much worse because of the construction of that structure," Cherwien said. "We got in there quick and got a good knock down. ... Because we were able to keep it to the kitchen, there weren't any significant issues."
The kitchen and dining area in the restaurant were destroyed, while the rest of the strip mall suffered smoke damage, he said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but Cherwien said it looks like the fire started in the kitchen.
Barbour said the restaurant closed at 5 p.m. Saturday and staff left about 6:30 p.m. She said fire investigators have told her it may have started near an electrical outlet between the oven and sink.
Mercado started the restaurant as a to-go food stand inside a grocery store that used to be next door, her daughter said. She had a little area where she would make tacos and burritos, and had such a good customer base that she expanded to a full restaurant, Barbour said.
About a year ago, Barbour took over, but her mother still came in to help cook and say hello to customers.
"She was the face of it. Everybody knew her," Barbour said. "She's really heart broken."
As Barbour tries to prepare a plan to re-open the restaurant, she said she will accept help from anyone. She can be reached through the restaurant's website, www.lmtexmex.com.
She plans to post updates on the restaurant online.
Kennewick police probe Friday shooting incident
KENNEWICK — Kennewick police were continuing Monday to investigate a shooting incident Friday night.
Police called to the 100 block of South Conway Place found four .40-caliber spent casings in the roadway just in front of the apartment complex, but could not find anything that had been hit, officers said.
Several minutes after the call, police stopped a car near 10th Avenue and Hartford Street and the front passenger jumped out as it was pulling over, police said.
The driver, who was identified as a known gang member, only would give officers the street name of the passenger who ran away, police said.
No additional information was available Monday.
No results from river search for sunken boat
UMATILLA — A search continued Monday for a boat that sank in the Columbia River in Morrow County.
Morrow County Sheriff Ken Matlack said officers received a call at 7:07 p.m. Sunday about the capsized boat.
A tug boat crew with Tidewater Barge reportedly watched a boat sink around 6:45 p.m. and found two lifejackets floating in the water, Matlack said.
Morrow County Marine Patrol, with help from a Umatilla County sheriff's marine boat and Columbia Basin Dive Rescue, began searching for the boat around 8:20 p.m., but were unable to find it.
The search was called off just after 9 p.m. and resumed Monday morning. No additional information was released Monday.
Kennewick man jailed in bra, underwear theft
KENNEWICK — An 18-year-old Kennewick man with a history of shoplifting arrests was jailed after trying to steal women's undergarments from a store, police said.
Christopher Patrick Marmo was caught Friday at Sears trying to shoplift a bra and underwear, police said.
Marmo was booked into the Benton County jail on suspicion of retail theft.
Police said suspects found to have two or more shoplifting arrests within six months can be considered habitual shoplifters, which could result in more time behind bars.
Marmo also was stopped for shoplifting Feb. 4 and March 18 at ShopKo, April 22 at Winco, May 2 at Goodwill in Pasco and May 8 at Fred Meyer, police said.
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; email@example.com