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Q&A: Will Tokyo Buffet ever reopen in Citrus Heights?

A red-tag notice declaring the building unsafe still appears outside Tokyo Buffet in Citrus Heights, months after a fire forced its closure. // Thomas J. Sullivan

By Thomas J. Sullivan–
Tokyo Buffet, a popular all-you-can-eat restaurant at 7217 Greenback Ln. that was forced to close last August after a fire, remains closed more than half-a-year later — leaving some diners wondering whether it will ever reopen.

Efforts to contact the owner, Huan Vu, have been unsuccessful, but the city’s building department confirmed plans have been initiated to repair the fire damage.

In January, construction plans were filed by Vu with the city to repair fire damage to the restaurant, but those plans were denied and sent back for correction, according to Greg Anderson, the city’s chief building official.

“We’re waiting for their pending resubmittal to address correction items,” Anderson said earlier this week. Revised construction plans were due to be resubmitted by Vu this week for reconsideration.

According to the city, the restaurant is required to address concerns with structural engineering and “insulation requirements in the commercial kitchen grease duct system.”

Tokyo Buffet first opened in 2010 after extensive interior remodeling on the site of the former Oriental Buffet restaurant.

What caused the fire?
According to Capt. Chris Vestal, Metro Fire public information officer, the likely cause of the fire was general failure of the restaurant’s kitchen hood fire extinguishing system, which at the time of the fire was inoperable. Nozzles in a commercial kitchen fire suppression system are generally installed in the kitchen hood exhaust, and quickly discharge directly over the source of the fire when it occurs.

The kitchen fire required physical ventilation of the restaurant structure from the roof by fire personnel. A general preliminary estimate of damage listed in the January plan application was $25,000.

Is the restaurant still “red tagged?”
A red tag “Unsafe to Enter,” dated August 6, 2019, remains on the restaurant front door. The fire damage, under city municipal code, resulted in the restaurant being declared “substandard, hazardous and/or unsanitary.”

“By law, it is unlawful to occupy or allow occupancy of the restaurant building without inspection by the city,” Anderson said.

The red tag will remain in place “until all required physical repairs, demolition or debris removal is completed,” Anderson said. Only then can a Certificate of Occupancy be issued by the city.

Upon completion of repairs, Tokyo Buffet will also have to be inspected by Metro Fire and then certified to reopen.

An estimated date for reopening is not known.

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