CHARGES: Press Bar Owner Started Fire on Office Desk
ST. CLOUD -- The owner of the Press Bar has been formally charged with intentionally setting fire to the downtown saloon in the early morning hours of February 17th.
Authorities believe he did so to collect the $1.3-million in insurance money on what had become a failing business.
Forty-year-old Andrew Welsh is charged with 1st-degree arson of a building using a flammable material and 1st-degree arson of a dwelling for damage to the apartment units above Cowboy Jacks.
According to the charges, Welsh and his wife had divorced last fall and were to put the bar up for sale by January 20th, 2020. Records show despite meeting with realtors, the bar was never listed.
Following the fire, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives was called in to investigate. They determined Welsh was the last one to leave the bar before closing up and the fire originated on the top of his desk in the basement office.
A specially trained dog indicated the presence of an accelerant on the desk. ATF Forensic Science Laboratory testing confirmed the findings.
Court records show the ATF experts systematically ruled out all other accidental causes including appliance failure and determined the fire was intentionally lit.
Search warrants were then served at a home in Sauk Rapids where Welsh had apparently been staying after his divorce. Authorities say they found nearly $2,000 in cash inside his SUV and a bottle of Ronsonol lighter fuel on the floor of his truck.
According to multiple employees, business at the Press Bar had been declining, specifically to the point where Welsh was reducing staff and had stopped selling tap beer.
Welsh is being held on $200,000 bail with conditions or $1.2-million bail without conditions.
His next court date has not yet been set.