Fire ripped through the Time Out bar and nightclub at 8th Avenue North and Oak Street in Myrtle Beach around 3 a.m. Thursday.
No one was hurt. No surrounding buildings were damaged and the fire was contained to the nightclub's upper floor, which fire officials call a total loss.
Flames were still showing 90 minutes after the fire started, but it was contained by about 6:30 a.m.
Time Out employee Adam Amira says he and a couple of other people were in the bar around closing time when he heard a loud noise upstairs and then smelled smoke.
When he went to check it out, he saw the fire, got others out of the building and called 911.
"I am shaken up. Basically I'm glad that I got the people that were with me out safe. No one had to go to the hospital. I had worked here 8-and-a-half, almost 9 years. It's kind of heartbreaking. There's a lot of history to this club, to this area," said Amira.
Flames reached high into the air, according to eyewitness Andy Coats.
"As I looked, I could see the flames start jumping out," Coats said. "I knew there were at least one or two more customers and some of the bar staff that I've known for years and they came out the front door pretty fast."
Amira told NewsChannel 15 the second floor is used only for storing decorations and there's no electrical connection to the floor, though Myrtle Beach fire investigators say they haven't been able to confirm that.
The Time Out has been a landmark in the local gay community for 23 years, leading to speculation the fire may have been the result of a hate crime, but owner Ken Eschenbach said he doubted that.
One longtime employee says the bar has been so popular with visitors over the years, it'll have to make a comeback.
"I know that they will want to see it again, years to come, once we rebuild, they know that we'll be here," said Charles Foster of Myrtle Beach.