Andrea Dearden Jul. 31, 2013, 9:45am

The owner of an Alorton fast food restaurant is accused of causing a fire that destroyed the building where it is located.

Alorton Crossing LLC filed a lawsuit July 15 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Mack-Rainey Group LLC, doing business as Cravin' Docs', and Lawrence Rainey.

According to the complaint, Mack-Rainey leased part of a strip mall at Alorton Crossing in June 2011 to operate a fast food carry-out restaurant known as Cravin' Docs'. In the lease, Mack-Rainey allegedly agreed to be responsible for all additions and improvements to the space, including a hood and fire suppression system for the commercial kitchen. The strip mall owners claim Mack-Rainey promised to follow all Alorton building codes, which meant having the hood and fire-extinguishing system inspected after the commercial cooking equipment was installed and on a monthly basis thereafter.

Mack-Rainey allegedly paid Central Safety and Fire to inspect the hood system prior to installation of the equipment with the understanding the company would return after the installation to make adjustments. However, Alorton Crossing claims Mack-Rainey never called the inspection company back after the installation and operated the restaurant knowingly with an inoperable fire-extinguishing system.

In September 2011, according to the lawsuit, Mack-Rainey was two months late on lease payments and had been served with an eviction notice. Alorton Crossing alleges Rainey had some friends and relatives in the restaurant the night he was served with an eviction notice.  Rainey was cooking "pig snoot in a pan of grease while catfish was in the deep fryer,” the complaint states. The landlords allege the group was drinking at the time and left the food unattended.

Grease vapors from the pig snoot and deep fryer allegedly caused a fire around the cooking equipment. Without the fire-extinguishing system installed, the lawsuit claims, the fire spread quickly and burned the entire strip mall to the ground, causing more than $1.6 million in damage.

The defendants are accused of negligence and breach of contract. The owner of the mall asks to be awarded more than $4.8 million in damages plus costs of the lawsuit. Attorneys Paul T. Falk and Bradley M. Arnold of Chicago represent Alorton Crossing.

St. Clair County Circuit Court Case No. 13-L-0368

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