Left: Bombay Gaylord after the fire. Right: Flames extend out of the restaurant on March 19. Credit: Bombay Gaylord Go Fund Me Website
Thomas Gomes lives across the street from his family’s Silver Spring restaurant—Bombay Gaylord Fine Indian Cuisine—in an apartment on the 18th floor of a Georgia Avenue building.
On March 19, the 29-year-old was asleep when an early morning fire ripped through the restaurant, destroying the dining room. Below it, The Quarry House Tavern suffered significant water and smoke damage.
“My view is of the restaurant,” Gomes said Thursday, nine days after the fire. “Every day I look out the window at the restaurant. That night, I went to sleep, and I wake to all these tweets from my friends. I wasn’t sure what happened. Someone said, ‘Sorry about the fire,’ and as soon as I saw that, I opened the blinds and all I could see was the charred window and black building.”
“I got emotional, I had tears in my eyes, I grew up with that restaurant,” Gomes said.
Gomes still isn’t sure why the sound of sirens at 1 a.m. didn’t rouse him from his sleep, but he says fire trucks and police travel down Georgia Avenue frequently.
His parents, Kalistus and Celine Gomes, who have operated the restaurant for about 17 years, were at the scene that night. He said they didn’t want to call and wake him.
The two-alarm fire destroyed the restaurant, leaving a charred shell in its wake. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer said firefighters believe it was caused by an electrical problem. Customers in the tavern called 911 after smelling the smoke and seeing fire inside the Indian restaurant around 1 a.m. The fire caused an estimated $750,000 in damage, according to Piringer.
Gomes said his family is waiting for more answers to determine what they can do next, although they’re interested in re-opening the restaurant at the same location.
“We’ve owned this restaurant for 17 years and it’s been the life blood of our family,” Gomes said. “As uneducated immigrants [from Bangladesh], my parents wouldn’t have been able to succeed in America without this restaurant.”
“It saddened my entire family to see this place burn,” Gomes added. “We are working with the landlord and adjusters to see what our next steps are.”
Gomes said they’d like to re-open as soon as possible. The building’s owner, Abbe Levin, said last week she’s waiting for answers from insurance officials about whether it’s possible to rebuild at the 8411 Georgia Ave. location. She said the building was extensively damaged, especially on the ground floor, where the Bombay Gaylord is located.
Gomes said the seven employees who work in the kitchen and as wait staff at the restaurant are reeling after the fire. “They cried more than we did that morning,” Gomes said.
He has set up a Go Fund Me webpage to try to raise $5,000 for the staff members. As a reward, all donors, even those who only contribute $1, will get a free buffet meal when the restaurant is able to reopen. So far, the website has raised more than $2,100.
Eventually, Gomes said he and his older brother want to take over from their parents and run the restaurant.
“It’s always been a fantastic spot,” Gomes said. “We’ve been there before downtown Silver Spring was what it is now and people have continued to support us. We want to be stronger than we were before.”