Alex Blodgett was arrested Monday after starting several fires around New York City. The pyromaniac is suspected of setting more than 12 garbage fires around the city. He is also accused of setting an outdoor dining area ablaze at a beloved NYC bistro.
The outdoor dining area belonged to Loulou Petit Bistro & Speakeasy in Chelsea. The restaurant used the additional space to house customers during the pandemic.
The 39-year-old suspect was arrested at around 4:15 a.m. Monday morning. Police found lighter fluid on his person. Officers took Alex Blodgett into custody after first responders reported to the Loulou Petit Bistro & Speakeasy on 176 Eighth Avenue.
It wasn’t clear why Blodgett torched the dining area in the street or why he started various other blazes around the city. Investigators are working on understanding what happened early morning Monday. They are also trying to identify a motive in the arson spree. Police reported that Alex Blodgett’s mini fires were all put out and that everyone was OK following the incidents.
The owner of Loulou Petit Bistro & Speakeasy, Mathias Van Leyden, told reporters that “Everybody’s OK, everybody’s safe,” despite the charred structure outside the eatery. Leyden was optimistic about the fire, saying that “the only damage was the outdoor dining section and part of the facade, and I’m already working on rebuilding. We had a very nice outdoor section already, but it’s going to be even nicer than before.”
The bistro was one of 13 targets Alex Blodgett hit during his bout of pyromania on Monday morning. He is suspected of setting a total of 13 fires on Eight Avenue, many of which were garbage fires. The spree began around 2:40 a.m. but police caught the suspect less than two hours later. Arson charges have not been made against Blodgett. It wasn’t clear what charges the suspect will face as of Monday afternoon.
Blodgett was taken to Bellevue Hospital on Monday where he underwent a psychiatric evaluation. The results of the tests were not released to the public. It’s not clear whether he will be charged for arson.
Mathias Van Leyden told reporters that he “opened [Loulou Petit Bistro & Speakeasy] three weeks before the pandemic.” Despite the crippling economic effects of Covid-19, Leyden admitted that “we survived and thrived during the pandemic. This is not going to stop me.”
Talking about Alex Blodgett, Leyden explained that “he was on a rampage. I don’t know what his reasons were. There are a lot of crazy people on the streets these days.”
The bistro’s outdoor dining section is a staple of Eighth Avenue in Chelsea. The aesthetic was a beautiful reprieve from the ordinary city landscape. The outdoor dining section was spotlighted in a Twitter post from Noel Y. Calingasan, a New York City photographer.
“Chelsea’s summer look,” Calingasan wrote in the caption. “Tag someone you’d like to dine or have cocktails with at this spot. A gorgeous corner in the heart of Chelsea featuring a flowery façade of Loulou Petit Bistro & Speakeasy.” The photographer wrote that the “floral installation” was designed by “Floratorium.”