Walat’s tavern co-owner in Somerset County found dead inside his bar destroyed by fire – TribLIVE

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The owner of a popular Somerset County tavern along Route 30 west of Jennerstown was found dead inside the building that was destroyed by fire early Wednesday, state police said.

Martin Walat, a co-owner of Walat’s, a bar atop Laurel Hill Summit in Jenners Township, was discovered in the bar area of the business, state police at Somerset said.

Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

State police fire marshals Trooper Seth Helman of the Greensburg barracks and Trooper Carl Richards of Ebensburg ruled the fire was accidental and started in the bar area. The fire marshals spent an extensive amount of time sifting through ruble in the front of the building, where the roof had collapsed.

There was heavy fire through the west side of the roof and exterior walls of the rustic brick and wood-sided building when the first firefighters arrived shortly after receiving the alarm at 6 a.m. , Jennerstown Fire Chief David Robertson said. Firefighters suspected that someone might have been in the building when they arrived on the scene, the chief said.

The fire chief said there were living quarters on the second floor of the tavern, but did not know if anyone was living there at the time of the fire.

It took about 45 minutes to get the fire under control, Robertson said. Because there was no fire hydrants in the area, Robertson said were assisted by several neighboring fire companies in Somerset County and the Ligonier area of Westmoreland County for pumpers and water tank trucks.

Route 30 was closed in the immediate area, resulting in a detour of westbound traffic along Route 30when the fire departments were fighting the fire.

Walat’s, which was built more than 50 years ago, did not have a fire suppression system, Robertson said.

The tavern was owned by Walat & Walat Inc., according to the state Liquor Control Board. Martin Walat is listed the president and his wife Karen, is secretary and his sister, Jane, is the vice president of the corporation, according to the LCB records.

A longtime customer of Walat’s, Dan Fleegle of Jenners Township, said the Walats served the biggest ham sandwich he ever saw.

“It would last me three meals,” Fleegle said.

The sandwich was so big, “you could not get it in your mouth,” said another customer, John Sube of Somerset.

Firefighters familar with the restaurant said the place would be packed during the summer with motorcyclists and then in the winter, with snowmobilers. It was not unsual to see 100 motorcycles in the parking lot during the summer.

Sube said there were times when it was so busy that Walat would tell customers it would take 90 minutes before they could get a ham sandwich.

In addition to the huge ham sandwich, Walat’s served a 26-ounce hamburger.

One firefighter, who declined to be identified, said “it was large enough for four people.”

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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