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Investigators cannot determine cause of fire at Gateway Lanes & Lounge in Clare

UPDATE 12/14/26 5:05 p.m.

Investigators said that they are not able to determine what caused the fire that happened at a popular bowling alley in Clare.

The Clare fire chief said that when the damage is so extensive, it’s difficult to pinpoint the cause.


The fire broke out last Tuesday night at Clare Gateway Lanes and Lounge. Only a clare firefighter was injured in the fire.

Bolle Contracting out of Clare is set to start cleaning up the rubble that was left behind on Dec. 26.

The owners are still trying to figure out if they will be rebuilding the facility.

UPDATE 12/6/23 5:24 p.m.


CLARE COUNTY — The community and the owners of a popular bowling alley are in a state of shock after their building was destroyed by fire.

To make things worse, the owners were in the middle of renovating their business.

It happened Tuesday night just before 11 o’clock at Gateway Lanes and Lounge on North McEwan Street in the City of Clare.

Clare Fire Department said the building is a total loss after the fire burned for most of the night.


What once was the Gateway Lanes and Lounge is now just a pile of rubble and twisted metal. The owners are not sure what the next steps are.

John Gross owns the bowling alley with one of his three sons, Jacob. He said it’s been heartbreaking since finding out about the fire.

“It was pretty sick feeling and hoping it wasn’t true. And when I got here and there was smoke and some flames and it was pretty devastating. So very emotional. I cried again. You know, just seeing this was pretty tough,” said Gross.

He said the business has been in his family since 1982 but seven years ago, his parents land contracted it to someone else.


Recently, John and his son decided to take it back and restore the place to its original glory.

Gross said they have been doing tens of thousands of dollars in renovations, along with a lot of man hours. But today, all of that was lost.

“We’ve put in drop Ceiling and lighting and fixing up machines and, and getting things restored. And then of course the bowling machines themselves have been in pretty rough shape and getting those restored,” said Gross.

However, there is a silver lining, according to Gross. Jacob stays pretty late most days but on Tuesday night, after bowling with his family for their weekly bowling night, he left earlier than usual.

And because everyone else had already gone home, no one was inside of the building at the time of the fire. The Clare Fire Chief Jim Chapman said they don’t know the cause of the fire, but it appears to have started in the area where the kitchen once stood.

“We got on scene. We had a lot of smoke and flames and then the whole thing erupted and was a total loss,” said Chapman.

Chapman said it took until after four in the morning before the massive fire was under control. Five other fire departments came to help out.

While fighting the fire, the roof collapsed, injuring a Clare firefighter. She suffered minor burns and minor injuries but is expected to be okay.

“Quite devastating for the community. This bowling alley has been here a long time and a lot of people in the area, not only from Clare but in the surrounding communities, come here to ball. So, it’s kind of a tragedy,” said Chapman.

Gross said it’s too early to know what the next steps will be. Right now, they are taking it one thing at a time.

“It’s way too early to know. I don’t know where that lies. It would be nice to have something here again, but I don’t know what situation we’re going to end up with,” said Chapman.

People have been reaching out, showing support and even sharing memories on social media on their business page.

“People are stopping by for hugs and condolences and texts and phone calls and again, I think for a while you’ll see people posting on our web page on Facebook just their thoughts and comments,” said Gross.

A state fire marshal has been called in to help investigate the cause.

UPDATE 12/6/23 2:00 p.m.

The Clare Fire Department says the fire at Gateway Lanes & Lounge bowling alley burned for most of the night as several fire departments worked to put it out.

Fire Chief James Chapman says the first calls came in around 10:30 Tuesday night. Crews had to close streets and shut off power to neighboring homes and businesses.

Chapman says no one was inside the building when the fire started, but smoke and flames could be seen coming from the roof at the south end of the building.

One firefighter was hurt when the roof collapsed. She had minor burns and injuries but is otherwise OK. While no one else was hurt, the building is a total loss.

“They’ve been working very hard at the bowling alley, fixing it up and renewing it and making improvements. This is a huge setback. Obviously, they’re very upset. Fortunately, the building was insured,” says Chapman. “They didn’t we didn’t discuss whether or not they’ll be rebuilding, but we hope we hope they do.”

There’s no word yet on the cause of the fire, but Chapman says it appears to have started near the kitchen area.

12/6/23 1:30 a.m.

We have learned that Gateway Lanes & Lounge caught fire late Tuesday night.

The first call came in before 11, and Clare County Central Dispatch says firefighters were on the scene around midnight.

They are asking everyone to avoid McEwan St. between Witbeck and Fifth St. They also say power is out in the area.

Northern Michigan’s news leader is working to bring you more details.

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