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Watch: Jerry's Crystal Bar & Package, a Zephyrhills landmark, burns down

ZEPHYRHILLS — Bob Geddes stood beneath a shade tree Thursday afternoon, looking helplessly as his family's livelihood smoldered about 30 yards away.

"It ain't sunk in," the 67-year-old said.

Jerry's Crystal Bar & Package, the tavern named after his mother and a fixture on the town's main thoroughfare since 1954, was ravaged by a fire late Thursday morning.

The Zephyrhills Fire Department was called to the scene at 5707 Gall Blvd. at about 11:30 a.m. Pasco County Fire Rescue sent additional fire trucks to help.

No one was reported injured, said Pasco County Fire Rescue spokesman Corey Dierdorff. The cause of the fire is not yet known, but what's left of the building is considered a hazard.

"It's completely gutted," Dierdorff said. "If you look around the sides, the block is starting to fail, so it's at a point that the walls could collapse. The roof has already collapsed on the inside."

Geddes said "a couple or three patrons and a little bit of a staff" were in the building when a burning smell arose. But everyone managed to get out.

The Crystal was a special place to Zephyrhills.

"Every town has their establishment that everybody knows, (that) is generational," said Deputy City Manager Billy Poe, "and I think that's what the Crystal was."

City Manager Steve Spina said he believes the bar was one of the oldest family-owned restaurants in Zephyrhills.

"Most people who are of age have been in there at least once," said Spina, describing the Crystal as a lore-rich spot for a nightcap.

"It could get rough," he added with a laugh, "but most of the time it was a safe place to go, and everybody knew everybody."

Mayor Gene Whitfield also said this:

"The Crystal Bar has truly been a landmark in the center of town for many, many years. Let me first say how thankful I am that there were no injuries to the patrons and to all the fire and rescue personnel. My heart goes out to the owners and their family for this great loss. The entire community should keep in mind that this is a difficult thing for our fellow citizens to go through. This tragedy affects jobs and livelihoods."

Geddes wasn't even 2-years-old when his parents, Bob and Jerry Geddes, opened the place in 1954. They had just moved down from Chicago.

Their bar was known for its oval-shaped bar, pool tables and live music. In March, the son said family and dozens of others celebrated the establishment's 65th anniversary.

"I grew up here," the son said, flanked by a handful of friends and relatives in lawn chairs, quietly observing the smoke and cinders. "I came here when I was a year and a half. I've been here all 65."

He is unsure if he'll try to rebuild the family business: "It was a long run and here we go, a new era."

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird and staff writer Justin Trombly contributed to this report.