Pub owner dies hours after popular business collapses

LEXINGTON, Mo. - A mixture of curiosity and disbelief drew people to Lexington's Main Street Thursday. Riley's Irish Pub and Grill fell to the ground overnight, and residents soon learned the similar news of its owner.

Jordan Gott said Riley's had become a landmark in Lexington.

"It's just been here for so long. It's part of the community," Gott said.

Riley's was the pride of its owner, Katherine Van Amburg.

"It was her baby. It was her favorite place in the world," Gott said.

Bob Eckhoff lives across the street from Van Amburg. He stopped by the pub as a favor for her cousin in California.

"Asked me to get a couple bricks as a memento," Eckhoff said.

Van Amburg might have picked up the bricks herself, but she's been battling cancer. And Thursday morning around 8 a.m., she died at the age of 69 -- just hours after the bricks hit the ground.

"An omen, ironic. I'm not sure the word that's needed here," Eckhoff said.

Van Amburg's friend and executor Georgia Brown said the pub was Katherine's true love. She said Van Amburg loved meeting everyone who came in.

"It was like 'Cheers' on television," Brown said.

That's why Van Amburg became such an important person to so many in Lexington.

"Kathy was a hallmark of what needed to be done in our town," Eckhoff said. "Kathy will be missed. As will her pub."

Structural problems at Riley's started a few years ago after a car hit the side of the building. The problem was fixed until a smaller collapse earlier this summer. At that point, Riley's moved to a temporary location. Van Amburg hoped to fix the century-old building and move the pub back in.

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