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Celebrity sommelier accused of setting fire to outdoor dining structures

Authorities believe Caleb Ganzer, a former Food & Wine magazine sommelier of the year, set fires at two restaurants and a trash bin earlier this year.
/ Source: NBC News

A nationally known wine expert was arrested after authorities said he three fires at or near New York City restaurants this year.

Famed sommelier Caleb Ganzer, 35, was charged with two counts of arson, two counts of criminal mischief and three counts of reckless endangerment in connection with the fires in lower Manhattan, according to the New York City Fire Department.

“Every act of arson has the potential to spread rapidly, endangering the lives of New Yorkers and FDNY members,” Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Wednesday in a statement. “Thankfully in these incidents there were no injuries and the suspect has been apprehended before another fire could be set.”

Ganzer is accused of setting fire to outdoor dining structures at 9 Stanton St. and 27 Prince St. in the early morning hours of Jan. 8 and July 13, respectively, officials said. The FDNY posted video of someone casually walking up to Prince Street Pizza and lighting its outdoor dining structure on fire.

The former Food & Wine magazine sommelier of the year is also the suspect in a June 26 rubbish fire near Broome and Centre streets, in a SoHo neighborhood filled with high-end boutiques and restaurants.

He had been initially arrested in connection to the July 13 blaze before investigators "established a connection to earlier occurrences in lower Manhattan that fit the same pattern," according to an FDNY statement.

Fire marshals have arrested Caleb Ganzer, 35, after he allegedly set fire to outdoor dining structures and rubbish in Manhattan in January, June and July of this year.FDNY

It wasn't immediately clear if Ganzer had hired an attorney. He could not be reached for comment at publicly listed phone numbers for him on Thursday.

Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, where Ganzer is a managing partner, has placed him on leave.

"We as the company are aware of the incident, and Mr. Ganzer is on a leave of absence," the SoHo French restaurant said in a statement. "If there are any other follow-up questions at this point, we have no further comment."

Street-side tables and dining structures became ubiquitous around Manhattan as restaurants offered safe, outdoor eating options during the coronavirus pandemic.

The al fresco option has become popular, though some neighborhood residents want them dialed back, complaining about noise, rats and trash.

This story was first published on NBCNews.com.