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Fire Destroys Moore’s Riverboat in the Delta

Moore's Riverboat on fire at first light
Delta denizens were shocked and saddened to see this image drop into their social media feeds on Wednesday.
© 2022 River Delta Fire District

A predawn fire has taken out another favorite Delta watering hole and boat-in dining destination. Moore’s Riverboat fell victim to the flames early in the morning of Wednesday, July 6. The restaurant was no longer an actual riverboat, but a barge overlooking ample guest docks. The wrap-around veranda, right on the Mokelumne River, was popular with locals and visitors alike. By land, the restaurant was on Isleton’s Delta Loop.

Moore's Riverboat on fire
The parking lot side.
© 2022 River Delta Fire District

Firefighters rushed to the flames around 4:30 a.m. and battled the blaze as the summer sky lightened. Units responded from the Isleton Fire Department, River Delta Fire District, Montezuma Fire District (based in Rio Vista), Woodbridge Fire District, Walnut Grove Fire District, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, US Coast Guard and Medic Ambulance. Authorities reported no injuries.

Fireboat at dock
This fireboat responded from Contra Costa County.
© 2022 River Delta Fire District

While en route to the scene, fire crews reported seeing heavy smoke and flames from approximately five miles away.

Moore's Riverboat Deck destroyed
This jumble of sticks on the large wrap-around deck were tables and chairs.
© 2022 River Delta Fire District

After extinguishing the flames on Wednesday, the River Delta Fire District posted on Facebook: “As a precautionary [sic] River Delta Fire District resources will remain at scene at Moore’s Riverboat for firewatch throughout the night. Fire Station 94 will also be staffed with its typical engine company and ready for response. It’s been a difficult day for all of us, especially for neighbors who live adjacent to the Riverboat. We will remain on scene so you all can have a good night sleep.”

Docks destroyed
The docks were destroyed too.
© 2022 River Delta Fire District

Investigators are looking into the cause of the fire.

Aftermath of fire
The aftermath.
© 2022 River Delta Fire District

This incident follows last year’s death-by-kitchen-fire of Giusti’s, a historic Italian restaurant on Snodgrass Slough in Walnut Grove. Giusti’s burned to the ground in September. Our sympathies to the owners, staff and regulars of these two historic Delta destinations.

6 Comments

  1. Jose Kanusee 7 months ago

    This is the second time! The old (real) riverboat burned years ago and remnant towed away. The barge came in its place. The orig place had far more personality- anyone old enough to remember the panties hanging from the ceiling…?

  2. Christine Weaver 7 months ago

    The original Moore’s Riverboat was called the Sutter. It is now the San Joaquin Yacht Club building on Bethel Island. Here’s the history from the SJYC website, https://sjyc.org/about: “1925, the Sutter and her sister ship began their storied histories ferrying supplies throughout the Bay Area. The Sutter delivered to ports in the San Francisco Bay and Delta, while her sister ran a route between Stockton and Delta ports. For years, the Sutter carried up to 750 tons of freight per trip, and earned her keep as a valuable workhorse.
    After WWII, a network of highways and roads allowed trucks to haul freight faster and more cost effectively. Around 1950, the Sutter’s life as a freighter ended on the westside docks of Sacramento.
    In 1961, a boatyard worker, John Moore, saw the vessel’s potential as a floating bar and restaurant. He borrowed $4,500 to buy the Sutter and began painstakingly renovating, expanding and converting her. It took him 5 years.
    On July 4, 1966, John Moore’s dream came true. “Moore’s Riverboat” opened to joyful fanfare and became an instant success as a restaurant and bar. For 27 years, merrymakers crowded the restaurant, danced to music from the ’20s and ’30s, and demonstrated their flair for decorating ─ by hanging ladies’ panties over the bar.
    In September 1993, a fire broke out in the galley. It damaged the unique landmark and forced the restaurant and bar to permanently close. The new building codes for public restaurants made it cost-prohibitive to renovate. Without a future, talks turned to dismantling the beloved vessel.
    In 1994, the San Joaquin Yacht Club purchased the Sutter “as-is, where is” for $1.00. Andy Quick performed the high-finance transaction, and volunteers went to work. They towed the Sutter to her new home on Bethel Island’s Dutch Slough, where she lives today.
    The club members invested money, time, talent and patience to painstakingly restore the vessel. Today, the Sutter serves as the San Joaquin Yacht Club’s cherished clubhouse, complete with the original chef’s galley, pilot house, full dress lights, 100-foot wooden bar ─ and colorful past.”

  3. Marlaina Pipal 7 months ago

    I recall a visit to Moore’s long ago with a relative via cabin cruiser. This seems to be the end of an icon of the Delta. Thankfully, no souls were in there to perish, unless found in the investigation. I like the history of these watering holes revealed by the author and hope to visit the SJYC when it is less than 100 out, so that means autumn.

  4. Catherine M. 7 months ago

    We had just eaten dinner there the night before this happened. We were at Pirate’s Lair that morning, and we swung by to see what was left. It was our favorite hang out every Thursday night. We were also on the water last September when we saw the flames from Giusti’s. It is sad to see these Delta icons meet their ends in this way.

  5. Samantha Samra 4 months ago

    Really anyone that knew the original Johnny Moores knew it sank multiple times and remembers how the panties got above the bar. Miss those times.

  6. Christine Weaver 4 months ago

    An update, as reported in the October 5, 2022, edition of the Rio Vista Beacon: This fire was apparently arson. One person has been arrested and charged, and a warrant has been issued for another suspect. Following investigation by the River Delta Fire District Arson investigators and the Cal Fire office of the State Fire Marshal Arson & Bomb Investigation Unit, Wyatt Tripp has been arrested and charged with Arson, Conspiracy to Commit Arson and weapons charges. A warrant has been issued for Rolly ‘Brian’ Heath Byrd for Arson and related crimes. Anyone with more information can call the Cal Fire Arson Hotline anonymously at (800) 468-4408. The loss was estimated at $1 million.

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