By The Raleigh Telegram
RALEIGH – A Raleigh Irish pub and restaurant that served as a local landmark and was one of the first nightspots to help kick off Glenwood Avenue’s resurgence as a downtown destination has sadly burned to the ground.
On the day after Christmas, the Hibernian Irish Pub caught on fire in the morning and by the end of the day, the building that featured unique woodwork, ornate bars, and a traditional Irish pub interior was a total loss.
The building’s roof and most of its structure have collapsed, burned or have been damaged by water from the firefighting efforts. Except for some barstools and furniture that survived, the building looks to be completely destroyed by the blaze.
Glenwood Avenue was blocked off for much of the day on December 26th as the area was filled with firemen and Raleigh Fire Department officials who were trying to put out the fire.
The fire department had to bring in ladder trucks to shoot water over the top of the building which continued to smolder and smoke for hours after the main fire was over. No one was hurt in the fire.
Hibernian owner Niall Hanley posted on the Hibernian Facebook page that the Hibernian bartenders will be temporarily working at the Solas Restaurant a few doors down on Glenwood Avenue. Hanley’s restaurant company also owns Solas, an upscale club which features a rooftop bar, nightclub, and gourmet restaurant downstairs.
“Until further notice the hib bartenders will be working at the ground floor bar and roof bar at Solas every eve,” said Hanley. “Please go say hi to them. We would appreciate your support.”
Hibernian Facebook page visitor Ketan Soni seemed to express the views of many people who have been to the pub when he expressed his sympathy with the staff online.
“Hibernian was always a welcome place ready to pour a pint with a great atmosphere,” he said. “Niall and staff gave me some great memories.”
Another Facebook commenter said he felt the same way as he posted comments along with many other customers.
“It is so heartbreaking to see these pictures,” said Brian Williamson. “Niall, I am so sorry this happened. You created a landmark in Raleigh and I hope that you can rebuild her better than she ever was. She may be gone but the memories will always remain.”
The cause of the fire has not been officially announced at this time and the case is still under investigation but in a phone interview with The Raleigh Telegram, Hanley said the fire started in the kitchen.
“It was a grease fire and it got out of control,” said Hanley.
When asked if the Hibernian would be rebuilt, Hanley said he would have to wait and see when construction could start possibly in the spring but that he has every intention of reopening the bar.
“Absolutely, we’re definitely rebuilding,” said Hanley. “Hopefully the city will work with us [on permits and such.]“
Hanley said he was overwhelmed by the show of public support that he has received by folks in the wake of the fire.
“The bottom line for me…is that the building was a beautiful box, but the Hibernian is about people,” he said. “Hopefully, we can reopen and have everyone back there to make new memories at Hibernian 2.0.”
Hanley was one of the few visionaries who helped to start the revitalization of the Glenwood South area years ago in Raleigh. When he opened the Hibernian, it was one of the few nightspots in the area and now years later, the area is flourishing with restaurants, sushi bars, nightclubs, and more. Many see the Hibernian and Niall’s other nightspot, Solas, as two of the main anchors in the district.
Hanley and the Hibernian have also been involved in local charity work for child cancer treatments. In 2010, the bar received an award from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for helping to raise over one million dollars over five years to go towards cancer research.
Hibernian customers and staff, including Hanley, have had their heads shaved to help raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation every year on St. Patrick’s Day in well-attended events at the pub. ::
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Article Posted: Thursday, December 27th, 2012.
PHOTO: The Raleigh Telegram