He went downstairs and saw fire spreading through the rear of the basement.
"By the time we got here, there was considerable fire in the basement," Deputy Assistant Chief Edward Baggott said.
Eyewitness News is told flames spread to the first floor while smoke spread to the apartments above.
The fire gutted the popular restaurant and bar, which Baggott called "a total loss."
Meanwhile, heavy smoke flooded the neighborhood and could be smelled for blocks.
Officials say four residents who fled the acrid smoke were being treated at the scene, mainly for smoke inhalation.
Firefighters battled the stubborn blaze for hours as it climbed through the rear of the four-story building.
The fire started near an electrical outlet in a closet. The cause is under investigation.