Caffrey’s Tavern in Forked River has long used the motto, “no strangers here, just friends you haven’t met.”

It is a true neighborhood place or a “joint” as my father used to say about a bar and restaurant that is a fixture in a town and a big part of the community.  That’s why the fire that completely destroyed Caffrey’s Wednesday was so devastating and has resulted in an outpouring of support from their loyal customers and Lacey Township officials.

Many expressed their feelings on the restaurant’s Facebook page including township business administrator Veronica Laureigh, a regular customer since Caffrey’s opened in the mid-90s.  “They have been a great supporter of the community.  The first aid squads, the fire companies, various sporting organizations, the Lacey Foodbank and they support the schools with various programs.”

The fire started in the morning while one of the cooks was doing prep work and it quickly spread throughout the two-story building.  Despite the best efforts of local fire companies they could not save the structure and fortunately nobody was injured.

Dan Coleman and Joe DePasquale, the co-owners of Caffrey’s have been friends of mine for over 40 years going back to our days as students at Ocean County College.  We spent a lot of time together at OCC and not enough of it in the classroom but that’s for another day.

Anyway the two have built a great business and clearly the fire is a shock.  However I spoke with Dan last night and he was adamant about a couple of things.  First he wanted to thank the volunteer firemen and first aid squads, police and all first responders for all their efforts as well as the many Lacey Township officials who have offered help.

He had special praise for the Wawa store across the street as they donated water and food throughout the day to those fighting the fire.

Second, they will begin the process to rebuild right away. Ironically they were planning to begin work shortly on a large outdoor facility on their property and that will proceed as well.  However the owners are most concerned about their employees and will spend much of their time helping to find work for them in the days ahead.

Several local restaurants have already reached out with job offers which is welcome news because clearly it will take time for Caffrey’s to rebuild.

But they will and when they re-open you can be sure they’ll be many people. Strangers and friends ready to welcome them back.