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Thursday, December 01, 2022
Tyler Katzenberger - Nitty Gritty Fire

Madison authorities respond to fire at Nitty Gritty

A garage attached to the popular birthday bar caught on fire at approximately 1 a.m. Sunday morning. No injuries were reported.

Authorities responded to a fire at Madison bar and grill Nitty Gritty early Sunday morning. 

The fire started at approximately 1 a.m. near a garage behind the Nitty Gritty on Frances Street and was put out sometime before 3 a.m., according to a Madison Police Department officer at the scene. No injuries were reported and most of the visible damage appeared to be contained near the garage. The 500 and 600 blocks of Johnson St. were closed to traffic as of 3 a.m. Sunday.

The fire originated in a dumpster located in the alley between the Nitty Gritty and a neighboring apartment complex, according to a Madison Police Department incident report. By the time Madison Fire Department arrived at the scene, police had evacuated over 70 patrons and staff as well as the neighboring building. The investigation is ongoing and led by Madison Fire.

Noah Fellinger - Nitty Gritty Fire
A garage attached to the Nitty Gritty was burned in a fire early Sunday morning.

The Nitty Gritty opened in 1968 and is a popular spot for birthdays and University of Wisconsin-Madison students.

Bartender Tim Hansen was working at the Nitty Gritty when the fire started. 

“We were literally just bartending during normal business, and then we saw cops pulled up outside,” Hansen said. “All of the sudden, we could smell fire, and then the next thing we knew, there were cops inside saying ‘get out, there’s a fire.’”

Though Hansen and other employees escaped safely, they said the situation was still frightening.

“It’s obviously very scary, it’s dangerous,” Hansen said. “You [didn’t] know what was gonna happen.”

Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:05 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022 to add a photo of the fire damage. At 4:07 p.m., this story was also updated to include information from the Madison Police Department's incident report. 

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Tyler Katzenberger

Tyler Katzenberger is the State News Editor at The Daily Cardinal. He has covered numerous protests and written state politics, healthcare, business and in-depth stories. Follow him on Twitter at @tk_kutz.

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