SAN ANTONIO – A former San Antonio nightlife staple burned to the ground Wednesday morning.
The enormous fire spit out the front entrance, tore through the walls and collapsed the roof.
Crews on the scene said no firefighters were injured, and no one was found in the rubble.
While crews kept water on hot spots, community members came out to see the remnants of a building that housed many fond memories.
“I have a lot of memories there. My sister met her husband, and my other sister met her husband,” said Elisa Ana Martinez, who has lived in the area her whole life. “I came in with $5, met Brooks and Dunn before they were famous, and there were like 30 people in there!”
Martinez was sad to see the Midnight Rodeo close in 2019, but she was even more upset to see what the property became.
“When it got closed, there was graffiti, and there’s trash, and 18-wheelers would hang out. It was very sad. I was hoping somebody would buy it and do something with it before it came to this point,” she said.
There were so many complaints about the property that the City of San Antonio’s Danger Assessment Response Team (DART) visited the site about a month ago, on Oct. 7.
They found a full bar of alcohol, paperwork, and electricity in the building.
That electricity was shut off last week.
Assistant City Attorney Eric Burns said the property owner allowed 18-wheelers and RVs to park on the property.
Burns confirmed DART found evidence that people had been squatting in the building.
“I saw a bunch of young kids. I don’t know how they got in,” Martinez said.
However, people who know the building don’t think squatters started the fire.
That includes the Burns, who said DART secured the building extremely well when they left a month ago.
“We get blamed for a lot of things, and it’s just not fair,” said Crystal Gresham, who is experiencing homelessness.
Gresham is living in the area. She told KSAT crews on the scene that a group of younger people used the building for shelter.
“I didn’t go inside there, but if it’s beautiful and secure, why in the world would anybody want to burn it down?” she asked.
That’s what fire investigators are now working to find out.
Burns said the city has a meeting with the property owners on Monday. The meeting was initially going to be about the neighborhood complaints, but now it will be about cleanup efforts and the property’s future.
As for the neighboring businesses, the liquor store and bingo hall did not catch fire. However, crews on the scene said there is smoke damage that is being assessed to see if and when those businesses will reopen.