Man charged in Lola on the Lake fire pleads guilty, sentenced

The man charged in connection to the fire that destroyed Lola on the Lake pleaded guilty Tuesday and was sentenced.

Nouh Elmi pleaded guilty to one count of negligent fire causing property damage.

He was sentenced to one year in the Hennepin County Work House, however, his sentence was stayed for two years. He will be required to participate in the restorative justice process.

The criminal complaint says neighbors reported a fire in the early morning hours of May 16, 2019, at 3000 East Calhoun Parkway.

The fire caused an estimated $2 million in damage, and a structural engineer later deemed the pavilion ‘unsalvageable.’ The building, which first opened in 1930 and in 2018 became Lola on the Lake, was later demolished.

Man charged in Lola on the Lake fire

The complaint said signs indicated the fire started at the base of the wall behind three garbage cans in the southwest corner of the building.

Surveillance video from Lola’s and a neighboring business showed Elmi and a woman approaching Lola’s from the south at about 2:45 a.m. on May 16. Police later sent out pictures from that surveillance video, and later said the woman shown in pictures voluntarily went to police and spoke with investigators.

The complaint says Elmi took out a hookah from a bag about 3 a.m., and after about 20 minutes, Elmi dumped the embers from the hookah behind the trash cans, the complaint said. Eventually, the video showed flames at the base of a column.

The complaint states the columns are hollow and have a separation at the base from the ground, creating a negative airflow. It says that sucked the flame into space, igniting the interior walls and moving up into the roof. By 3:42 a.m., the building was engulfed in flames.