Since reopening for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, business has been better than ever at the newly renovated Touchdown Restaurant, manager Ralph Figueroa said.


Since reopening for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend, business has been better than ever at the newly renovated Touchdown Restaurant, manager Ralph Figueroa said.

He has seen many new faces in the last week and a half and most of them have been repeat customers.

“We’ve done something right,” he said. “The place is a lot more inviting. We have brought this building way into the future.”

Touchdown Restaurant was heavily damaged by a fire on Oct. 25, owner Donna Figueroa’s birthday, said her son, Ralph.

The fire ignited in the bathroom vent while he was deejaying around 10:30 that Tuesday night.

“I smelled a little bit of smoke; I thought I was going to lose a piece of equipment,” he said.

People told him there was smoke coming out of the men’s room. He figured someone had thrown a cigarette into the trashcan and ran into the lavatory with a fire extinguisher.

That’s when he saw a hole in the ceiling. He sprayed down the bathroom, only to see that the attic had caught on fire.

“I ran around to the kitchen, pulled the attic door down and that fire came roaring at me like it was its job,” he said. “I got another tank and went up in there. I called 911 and shut the power down.”

The Dover Fire Department and the Camden-Wyoming Fire Department both put out the blaze by about 11:15 p.m. The Office of the State Fire Marshal ruled the fire accidental, Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio said.

They started repairs right away, but it took five months for work to be completed, Ralph Figueroa said. It was a challenge to get work done during Christmas and New Year’s, when a lot of construction suppliers are closed.

Unfortunately, given the time Touchdown’s was closed, most of the staff was lost, said manager Ashley Figueroa, Ralph’s sister. Only three employees stayed out of a staff that numbers around 25. She also owns Juliano’s Italian Market downtown and moved some people there, but most of the employees sought employment elsewhere as the holidays hit.

There was not a lot of time to train the new staff before reopening, Ralph Figueroa said. He has spent a lot of time cooking while Ashley has tended bar as they have built the staff back up at the restaurant.

“Thank God we had a mild winter,” he said. “We just made our opening, March 16.”

Ralph pushed for the St. Patrick’s Day opening given the high traffic the holiday has traditionally brought to the restaurant.

“It was amazing,” he said. “We tripled our record number that weekend.”

“Everybody was anticipating our opening,” Ashley added. “We have a large clientele. One of our customers [Travis Bowers] started a Facebook page, Touchdown’s Lost Souls. We were up to 73 members.”

All that support and enthusiasm has alleviated the pain caused by seeing the restaurant they grew up in heavily damaged by fire.

“I’ve been here all my life — 33 years,” Ralph said. “It’s a family business. We definitely had our share of arguing that last month of putting this place together. It was intense.”

“It was tragic, but it turned into something wonderful,” Ashley said.