Weather damage prompts major renovations at popular restaurant

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — A popular Fall River restaurant will be closed for at least the next few months as crews work to fix extensive weather damage to the more than century-old building.

Academica Restaurant on South Main Street isn’t just a Portuguese eatery. In fact, it’s been a gathering place and social center for city residents for many years.

Now, it’s undergoing major renovations to repair damage from a recent flood and make sure similar incidents don’t occur in the future.

The chain of events started on the morning of Valentine’s Day when temperatures outside dropped to -8 degrees and wind chills were in the -30s.

Junior Paquette, who runs the restaurant’s club, said a bartender was the first to spot the destruction.

“He came in the morning and the first thing he noticed was water pouring all over the place,” he said.

The culprit? Likely the frigid conditions.

“From the top level there was a pipe that let go up in the men’s room and it came down and flooded all the way down to the basement,” Paquette recalled.

Paquette said the building has been around for more than 100 years. In the 1960s, it was a hub for Portuguese immigrants to gather and find jobs.

The temporary closing is difficult on the employees and the community, but fortunately, other restaurants and venues have offered to host events that were originally scheduled at Academica.

Jenelle “Nelly” Eaton, whose brave battle with cancer came to an end in November, was supposed to celebrate her 18th birthday at the restaurant Friday night. Academica planned to honor Nelly with a celebration of her life, which has since been moved to Don Carlos Social Club on Plain Street.

Academica hopes to be back open by August for the Holy Ghost Feast of New England. Serv-Pro Regional President Doug Glassman said he and his team are actually ahead of schedule for the first phase of the cleanup operation.

“Looking forward to seeing this place put back together,” said Glassman. “It’s going to be better than ever, like brand new. Looking forward to seeing it open again.”

Academica last faced structural problems back in April of 2014 when a truck fell through the building’s roof, which had been transformed into a parking lot for patrons.

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