A year after Durham explosion, and now with COVID-19 challenges, Torero's 'working hard' to reopen

Josh Chapin Image
Friday, April 10, 2020
A year after Durham explosion, Torero's 'working hard' to reopen
A year after Durham explosion, Torero's 'working hard' to reopen.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Jose Arias is a familiar name in Durham.

He's the owner of Torero's, a well-known business downtown that's been missing since the natural gas explosion one year ago.

"I love it," he said of his restaurant.

He's been at the location for 25 years.

"I think folks are grateful for me to have the business," Arias said this week as he continued to put finishing touches on his restaurant at the corner of North Duke and West Main streets. "I love when people are happy with my food."

Arias was in the restaurant with another person last April when firefighters ran in and got him out.

"We found out our neighbor passed away -- it was very hard for us. He was a good friend," Arias said referring to Kong Lee, the owner of Kaffeinate Coffee Shop from where the explosion emanated.

One other person, a utility worker, died as well.

Arias thought initially he could reopen within a few months but realized it was a much bigger job.

He needed new windows and the electrical wiring throughout the place had to be brought up to code.

Insurance paid for some of the repairs, but he's had to dip into his own pockets.

"We've tried to work so hard to try to be open again," he said.

Then the novel coronavirus threw him and his staff another curve ball.

Arias wants to open in May but said if guidelines say people can't come into restaurants, he will try to move to a take-out model that other Triangle restaurants have done to get by for now.

"We were not expecting that," Arias said. "We were expecting a better way to be reopen but the situation happened, and I don't know how to handle it. I just want everybody to be OK and come back and pray to God that everybody is safe. I hope this virus disappears forever."

A final health inspection will come in the next few weeks.

PHOTOS: Durham gas explosion