Wildfires take building, but not bond for Alamo Steakhouse family

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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- On November 28, 2016, Local 8 News reporters David Ball and Chynna Greene stood in Gatlinburg and, along with millions of others, watched as the Alamo Steakhouse burned to the ground. Intense flames and unbearable smoke engulfed the popular restaurant, burning it to its foundation.

One year later, visitors would have to look and listen inside to even tell there was a fire.

The Keene and Sanders family visits Gatlinburg every year. The last time they visited, they ate at the Alamo just a few days before the fire.

"We might be 100-200 miles from here, but we felt like we lost something close to us," John Sanders said. "So it's good to see it's reborn."

The restaurant's owner, Kelly Johnson, said the new building houses the same restaurant so many people have known and loved.

"I almost forget that the fire happened a little bit because the building looks exactly the same from the outside, so you're not reminded every time you park, and there's no rubble and so it's not always on the mind, I can forget about it," Johnson said.

But Johnson and her staff said they can't forget the past. In the restaurant sits one of the only surviving pieces of the fire—a mural with images of the original staff who stood in for the artist.

"It's one of the only things that survived in the fire," Johnson said. "I was surprised because the fire destroyed our safe, but it's sort of great to have something to hold onto."

In the end, the flames burned the building, but they couldn't break the bond of the Alamo family.

"Some lost everything, they know what it's like, they've worked in other places, but the relationship is stronger and different [here]," Johnson said.