Fire interrupts good times at landmark Haddon Twp. tavern

The back patio of Tom Fischer's Tavern on Cuthbert Boulevard in Haddon Township sustained the worst of the fire damage. The owner hopes to reopen next week.
The back patio of Tom Fischer's Tavern on Cuthbert Boulevard in Haddon Township sustained the worst of the fire damage. The owner hopes to reopen next week. (AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 23, 2014

Behind the upside-down chairs on the bar in Tom Fischer's Tavern, a plaque hangs from the wall. "The First Bar on This Site Was Born in 1938," it reads.

Over the decades, the Haddon Township bar, which prides itself on attracting a diverse crowd, has served doctors and construction workers, patrons young and old.

But on Wednesday, a fire temporarily put a cork in the memories. Fire crews responded sometime before 4 a.m. Valerie Fischer, owner since 1995, said a smoldering cigarette was suspected as the cause, but arson had been ruled out.

The worst damage was in a back area known as the smoking patio, Fischer said. Other parts of the building sustained smoke and water damage, though she said she expected to reopen next week.

The blaze stirred nostalgia in customers, some of whom walked by Wednesday afternoon to survey the damage and recall their experiences.

"It was cool, it was different," said Anthony Milano, 50, of Philadelphia, who went to the bar as a teenager. "The first time I ever drank beer. The one thing that Mom never found out."

Sue Allen, 56, a bartender, has worked at the bar for 25 years. "They change over the years, but overall it's a lot of the same people," she said of the regulars.

Sometimes, she said, patrons play Frisbee in the back parking lot. She called them a fun crowd.

"It's their place," she said. "It's their second home."

Outside the bar, on Cuthbert Boulevard next to the PATCO line and near the Collingswood station, empty Heineken and Budweiser bottles sat in a pile of rubble next to flipped tables. Some side windows of the bar were boarded up.

Inside, charred rubble was strewed on the floor.


mboren@phillynews.com

856-779-3829 @borenmc

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