Landmark speakeasy claimed by fire

June 30, 2008 5:32:32 PM PDT
Flames attacked the Sweetwater Casino early this morning, and while there's no official cause yet, authorities think the culprit could have been a bolt of lightning. The restaurant and banquet hall has been a landmark in Sweetwater, New Jersey, Atlantic County for over 80 years, literally sitting on the banks of the Mullica River.

At 4:15 a.m. flames engulfed the building. 15 fire companies did battle in the remote pinelands location. 15 companies battled the flames at the remote location in the jersey Pine Barrens of Atlantic County.

It took nearly 5 1/2 hours to control the blaze. There are no hydrants in the rural area so tanker trucks were used and water was pumped from the Mullica River. The nearby marina and homes were saved but there were some scary moments.

The Sweetwater Casino wasn't a casino at all, but in its early days during prohibition it was a speakeasy - a place to drink and gamble. Until now, it was a popular restaurant bar and banquet hall on the picturesque Mullica River.

Sweetwater was booked for events including a wedding this Saturday. Management is working to secure another location. The owners say if customers who had reservations have any questions, e-mail them at sweetwatercasino@

Meanwhile, the cause is under investigation - but authorities say it may have been lightning.