Clarence's Drive-in fire cleanup finally underway, new Clarence's one step closer

Sue Guinn Legg • Sep 23, 2018 at 4:03 PM

UNICOI — Ten months after the fire that destroyed Clarence's Drive-in, removal of the charred remains of the iconic Unicoi restaurant is finally underway and the new restaurant the owners pledged to build a few days after the fire is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Long delayed by litigation between insurance carriers and multiple inspections by expert fire investigators on both sides of the case, the clean up of the property began early last week.

As of Friday, two large construction waste bins had been filled with scrap metal by two small bulldozers and owners Teresa and Jerry Collins hope to have the site cleared within the next week or so.

Teresa Collins said the lawsuit that has been holding things up was only recently settled. She and Jerry Collins have looked at plans and cost estimates for the new drive-in that may be built on the original Clarence’s property.

The Collinses need more parking than the old place offers. They are looking at another location a few miles down the road. And they’re giving themselves a few weeks to make a decision while they wait for the insurance money to come in.

“The insurance finally released it to us so we could go ahead and clean it up. That’s the good thing,” Teresa Collins said. “I would have liked to have done that a long time ago.

“I don’t have the money yet and I’m not sure where we’re going to build. I would love to stay there. You feel sentimental about things like that. But I had a problem with parking there. People would park up and down the road and I hate for them to park on other people.

“We’re just trying to get it cleaned up. Hopefully that will be finished next week,” she said.

“It’s kind of bittersweet. We want to stay in the same place and we’re looking at other places too. It will probably be a couple of weeks until we know for sure.

“It’s kind of exciting, thinking about what you want to do, planning everything out. You just want to be there.”

In the meantime, Clarence’s will be serving daily at its temporary home in the former La Meza Mexican Restaurant at 3615 Unicoi Drive.

Email Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow her on Twitter @sueleggjcpress. Like her on Facebook at facebook.com/sueleggjcpress.

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