Sheriff: Clarence’s Drive-In in Unicoi destroyed by accidental fire

UNICOI, TN (WJHL) –  A Unicoi, Tennessee landmark restaurant was destroyed by accidental fire on Tuesday night, says the sheriff.

Crews rushed to Clarence’s Drive-In, 4021 Unicoi Drive, just before 11 p.m.  Within half an hour, the building was engulfed in flames.

According to Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley, an asphalt sealing company was at Clarence’s Drive-In to seal the parking lot.

The fire started, somehow, as workers used a propane burner to get rid of grass in cracks on the asphalt. The company, we’re told, was working close to the building and somehow the flames had gone up into the building.

It was a slow burn according to the fire marshal, and overnight it got into the bar section of the restaurant.

Deputies shut down Unicoi Drive while firefighters from three departments tried in vain to save the building. But crews were still on the scene on Wednesday trying to put out hot spots.

Unicoi County Sheriff  Hensley called it a sad day for Unicoi County. “It’s a landmark,” he said.  “Everyone around here has eaten here through the years.”

Hensley said he believed Clarence’s opened in 1969.

News Channel 11 reached out to the owner of the restaurant who had this to say:

“We will be back. I’m just not sure when. We are thinking about leasing until we get back up. There is still a lot of decisions to be made in the coming days”

Sheriff asked the Tennessee State Fire Marshall’s Office to assist in the investigation.



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