What remained of Bridget Foy's was in danger of collapsing, authorities said, preventing investigators from getting into the basement to continue their search for a cause.
Neighbors and regulars watched helplessly as crews tore into what was left of the building.
"This was our spot, this was our 'Cheers,'" said Cheryl Henderson. "It's the family."
Bridget Foy herself, whose father opened the business in 1978, was at the scene to console regulars and watch the demolition of the family business.
The fire began around 1:15 a.m. and more than 100 firefighters responded to the scene.
They arrived to find heavy smoke in the basement and that smoke could be seen from blocks away.
"I parked my car, was able to look and see smoke coming everywhere," said cab driver Simon Mrebti.
"There was smoke billowing out all the windows," said Mike Wagner.
The restaurant closes at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays and was shut down at the time of the fire. Officials tell Action News there was no one inside the restaurant when the fire began.
Firefighters began with an interior attack on the flames but had to pull out of the building because the situation became too dangerous inside.
Crews then worked to contain the flames from spreading to surrounding buildings, but some were still filled with smoke and water.
The fire was placed under control around 4 a.m. but flare-ups continued long afterward.
Passersby were stunned at the damage to this beloved neighborhood staple.
"I'm literally at a loss for words," said Seember Ityokumbul.
"It's a place that's been there, an icon on the corner since God knows how long. To see it like this is pretty bad," said Sam Paul.
"It's just a shock. This place has been around for so long, I don't know what's going to happen without it," said Leeanne Andrijischym.
Three firefighters were taken to the hospital as a precaution.
The Red Cross is assisting those affected the fire.
Red Paw Relief said two dogs from a nearby groomer's died due to the fire.
South Street Headhouse District released the following statement on Facebook:
Early this morning a fire ripped through the corner of 2nd & South Street devastating the iconic Bridget Foy's restaurant and severely damaging Doggie Style Pet Store next door.
Our hearts go out to John, Bernadette, Bridget, Paul and the entire Foy family. Bridget Foy's has been the cornerstone of South Street for 40 years and a vital part of our colorful and vibrant South Street story - and an important part of Philadelphia's history. Families from around the city, region, and country have come through Foy's doors to find a wonderfully warm welcome and exceptional hospitality from this beloved family (and their staff). Foy's is a special tradition for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and so many other special occasions.
Please keep the family and staff in your thoughts - as well as Howard Nelson and staff of Doggie Style, and those displaced in neighboring apartments.
Our sincere thanks for all the first responders and the city's defenders for their efforts to contain the fire and keep our neighborhood safe.
Please stay tuned for updates about how we can support the Foy's, Howard at the Pet Store, and anyone else affected.
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