South Philadelphia’s landmark Melrose Diner, shuttered by a kitchen fire Monday morning, does not have a date with the wrecking ball, its owner said.

“The Melrose will stay. The Melrose has to stay,” said owner Michael Petrogiannis, in his first public comments since July 2, when reports surfaced that he obtained a demolition permit for the diner and the two adjacent buildings. The property occupies a full block bordered by 15th Street, West Passyunk Avenue, and Snyder Avenue.

City officials said the fire, which started about a half-hour before the diner’s 8 a.m. opening, was placed under control nine minutes after firefighters arrived. The cause is under investigation, the officials said.

Damage was unknown immediately, said Petrogiannis, reached during a trip to visit family in Greece. He said a cook had turned on a grill at the beginning of his shift and accidentally left it unattended.

He said he would announce a reopening date when he had more information.

» READ MORE: Demo permits are issued for Melrose and Broad Street Diners

Petrogiannis said he secured the city permit to stave off any attempts to block demolition in advance of what he called a partial redevelopment of the property. The stainless steel- and neon-trimmed diner, which dates in that location to the mid-1950s, is not historically certified.

Its dining room is partly new, renovated after a 2019 fire in a vent in an exterior-facing wall.

Under Petrogiannis’ current plan, he said, the adjacent buildings, which house a bakery and storage, would be torn down and apartments would replace them, while the diner would be kept as it is. He could not explain why the permit application included the demolition of the diner.

He said the project has no timetable as he fears the impact of rising interest rates.

“The last place I’m going to close is the Melrose,” said Petrogiannis, whose holdings also include the Country Club, Tiffany, Mayfair, Warminster West, Broad Street, and Michael’s Diners.

Petrogiannis, like many other diner owners, said he has been struggling since the pandemic with skyrocketing food costs and a labor shortage that keeps him working where needed from early morning till late at night. The Melrose’s hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

The days of 24-hour city diners are largely gone, battered by competition from delivery apps and Shorti-slinging Wawas.

Petrogiannis’ stress, he said, is high and good news is rare. Notified about the fire, following the fallout from the demolition permit, he said: “When it rains, it pours.”

Why keep going? “What else am I going to do?” said Petrogiannis, 66, who started in the business as a teen.

Petrogiannis said he planned to build apartments at Broad and Ellsworth Streets, the site of the current Broad Street Diner. He received a demolition permit on June 28. There is no timetable, he said. Meanwhile, the diner is operating.