Fundraising efforts under way to help ‘Rebuild Athens’

Athens Grill fire
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Firefighters at the scene of Friday’s night’s fire at the Athens Grill restaurant in downtown Riverhead.

Friends and fellow downtown restaurant owners have banded together to kick off a series of fundraisers to help Athens Grill owner John Mantzopoulos rebuild the Riverhead  restaurant after it was destroyed in a fire that swept through the kitchen Friday night.

The first fundraiser, a free barbecue dinner called “Rebuild Athens,” will be held Sunday, said event organizer and owner of the Riverhead Project restaurant Dennis McDermott.

“This is going to be a homestyle, informal, old school event to help John rebuild his place of business, the event is free and all we ask is that people donate whatever amount they can to help John rebuild”. Mr. McDermott said. “We rushed to get this event up and going, there will be more events to follow, we know this is a tough weekend but the key is that make a beginning to help John build anew.”

Mr. McDermott also announced the Riverhead Restaurant Group, an organization devoted to promoting downtown’s restaurants that will also help to support Mr. Mantzopoulos as he rebuilds.

“We hope the RRG will bring Riverhead area dining establishments together and I know our local restaurant industry will come together to stand behind John,” he said.

Anthony Coates,  a dowtown Riverhead resident and friend to Mr. Mantzopoulos, is a co-organizer of Sunday’s fundraiser and said the blaze “sent shockwaves” through Riverhead.

He urged locals to give back to “a man who has given so much to Riverhead.”

“John is a good neighbor and a friend to all, now is the time for us to help out a friend,” he said. “Riverhead is a small town and our greatest strength is that when the chips are down we come together as a small town. We have come too far in rebuilding Main Street to slide backwards.”

Some residents have already started donating to the cause.

In a post on the Athens Grill Facebook page, Mr. Mantzopoulos said the Riverhead cheerleading squad gave him fundraiser money from Saturday’s cardboard boat race.

Mr. Mantzopoulos also thanked firefighters for keeping the fire from spreading to other buildings.

“I also want to thank all my customers that have supported me for the past nine years [and] all my friends down on Main Street,” he wrote.

The fundraiser will be held at The Riverhead Project on Sunday, July 7 from 2 to 5 p.m.

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