Mouse’s Ear fire remains a mystery

Becky Campbell • Jan 31, 2013 at 6:38 AM

Investigators were still digging through the rubble left by the fire that destroyed the region’s only strip club three weeks ago, and it could be even more time before they know what caused the blaze.

The Jan. 10 early-morning fire gutted the Mouse’s Ear Exotic Sports Bar, located off Tenn. Highway 36 near Bobby Hicks Highway in Gray.

“It’s a joint operation. It’s ongoing and still undetermined,” as to the cause, said Washington County Sheriff’s Investigator Jeff Miller earlier this week.

“I went out with the state fire marshal’s office and ATF, and it’s my understanding the insurance company has hired an engineering company to dig it out,” he said.

He said there could be samples taken for testing, which could lengthen the process to determine the cause.

Buddy Browning, one of the Mouse’s Ear owners, said the company is just waiting to hear the results of the investigation before proceeding with any plans.

“Right now we’re waiting on reports from fire marshals and insurance arson investigators,” Browning said. “Right now we’re still in limbo.”

The long-standing strip club has weathered a fire right before it opened in 1993 as well as numerous opponents to its offerings. That fire was relatively minor and repairs were completed in a day and a half.

And it’s still unclear how difficult it will be for the club to reopen, given the extensive damage of the January fire. There is also likely to be a battle from a zoning issue as well.

Several Washington County commissioners have already voiced their opposition to that happening, although the owners have said they would want to continue operations at the site.

The day of the fire, one fire official said it appeared the fire started in a back corner of the building, but that investigators would have to make a final determination.

There was no time frame for the investigation to be completed, but Miller said it could be a while.

“It may be a lengthy investigation,” he said.

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