An early morning fire has destroyed a restaurant in Montreal's Plateau neighbourhood.

Firefighters got the call at 5:20 a.m. Friday and rushed to Damas restaurant at 5210 Park Ave.

Operations chief Ian Ritchie said the fire began inside the restaurant and there were elements that led them to believe it was criminally set. The case has been transferred to the Montreal police arson squad.

Landlord Stratos Spanos was on site Friday morning and has already met with firefighters and the police. He told CTV News he had not noticed anything unusual during closing time Thursday night.

The fire completely gutted the restaurant on the ground floor but firefighters managed to stop the flames from spreading to the two apartments on the second floor, where the other restaurant owners lived. They were on vacation and not home at the time of the fire, which was under control by 6:30 a.m.

Ritchie said the buildings on either side were evacuated, but the 20 residents living next to the restaurant have since been able to return to their homes.

Park Avenue was closed down between Laurier Ave. and St-Viateur Ave. for at least four hours Friday morning.

Ritchie said there was a lot of water on the street that had iced over and Park Ave. had to be closed to traffic until city workers were able to put down salt on the slippery street.