Man, 45, dead at scene of historic tavern fire in Manitowoc County

The person was found in an apartment on the second floor of Hika Bay Tavern in Manitowoc County
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 9:46 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2022 at 4:00 PM CDT
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MANITOWOC COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A 45-year-old man was found dead at the scene of a fire at an historic tavern in Manitowoc County.

The victim’s name was not released. He was found in an apartment on the second story of Hika Bay Tavern in Cleveland, according to the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office.

On Sunday, just before 8 p.m., crews were called to the tavern located at 252 Lincoln Avenue. At least one person was inside the bar and one was in the upstairs apartment. The second-story apartment was engulfed in flames.

Neighbors tell us people had been in the bar earlier in the day to watch the Packers game, and as the manager was closing up she saw smoke and ran out of the building.

Jen Eggers, who lives across the street, told us, “I was done watching the game and then I came in the kitchen and I noticed there were flames coming out of that window pretty strongly, so then I called 911 and they said that people had already called, and so I just watched it. It was terrible.”

“The smoke was pouring out. You can see the front windows are gone, too. So fire trucks from all over -- Newton, St. Nazianz, everybody -- the kind you don’t want to see in front of your house, ever,” Eggers continued.

She watched as firefighters from around the area worked to put out the blaze in the historic building. The 45-year-old victim was found unresponsive in the second-floor apartment.

“Life-saving measures were performed; however, the victim was pronounced dead. An autopsy is scheduled later this week to determine the cause of death,” reads a statement from Sheriff Dan Hartwig. “On behalf of the Sheriff’s Office, I would like to offer our deepest condolences to all those affected by this tragic incident.”

Investigators combed through the debris Monday. The Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office along with the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigations (DCI), State Fire Marshal and Cleveland Fire Department are investigating the fire.

We saw evidence bags being taken out of the apartment, but no one at the scene would comment on what happened. The sheriff’s office doesn’t have a timeline for how long the investigation will take as it waits for reports from the county coroner and state fire marshal.

On Monday, the tavern announced that it would be closed until further notice due to the fire.

The Manitowoc County Historical Society says the building dates back to the 1800s. It was originally known as the Union House.

“Local residents claim the Hika Bay Tavern is the oldest continuously licensed tavern in Wisconsin,” reads a statement on the Manitowoc County Historical Society website.

There’s no word if the historic building is salvageable.

“It was always a place you could come and have some friends meet you. It was a nice clean friendly, a piece of history. It’s sad. I hope they reopen,” Eggers said.

The Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office thanked the following departments: Cleveland Fire Department, Cleveland First Responders, Cleveland Police Department, Manitowoc County Coroner’s Office, DCI, State Fire Marshal, and Manitowoc County Joint Dispatch Center.