By CBSLA Staff

PASADENA (CBSLA) — A man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of setting fire to Kathleen’s Restaurant in Pasadena.

Security footage from the scene showed two men outside the restaurant moments before smoke and flames were seen coming out of the restaurant’s front door. (CBSLA)

It happened in the early morning hours when good Samaritan Michael Shook was heading to work.

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“I noticed that the bushes were on fire in front of the restaurant,” he said. “I kind of did a double-take.”

Shook said he saw a man rummaging about in the area, but he wasn’t sure what he was doing.

Security footage from the scene showed two men outside the restaurant moments before smoke and flames were seen coming out of the restaurant’s front door.

“I was literally shell-shocked,” Kathleen Meymarian, the restaurant’s owner, said. “We came right over as soon as we heard and we just were looking at the damage, and it was just impossible to absorb it.”

Kathleen’s has been serving diners in Pasadena for four decades. And, after an already abysmal year, the owners were horrified to see the restaurant damaged by alleged arsonists.

“During COVID, business is down at least 70% because it is almost impossible to survive just on takeout,” Meymarian said.

But Meymarian said she was not going down without a fight.

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“We’re just determined to stick this out no matter what curves are thrown our way, and this was definitely another big curve,” she said.

Once police officers and firefighters got to the scene, they were able to stop the fire from spreading and quickly arrested Christopher Richer on suspicion of arson.

Luckily, the damage was mostly contained to the side dining room with the main dining room and kitchen unscathed. But the loss couldn’t have come at a worse time.

Meymarian said during the peak of the pandemic, and the pit of the business’ struggles, her co-owner, Efren, was diagnosed with leukemia.

So now, along with preparing for a bone marrow transplant, he must put together the pieces of his and his partner’s life’s work.

“We’re determined to stick it out,” Meymarian said. “Save the business, save his life.”

Meymarian said she was hoping to reopen by the end of the week, but said that depends on the results of inspections by the city.

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Pasadena police said the investigation was ongoing.