Hibernian pub burns 'to the ground' after fire starts in kitchen

Hibernian was cornerstone of area’s revival

abaird@newsobserver.com aweigl@newsobserver.comDecember 27, 2012 

— The Hibernian, a popular Glenwood South pub and a symbol of the transformation of the once low-keyed throughway, is “gone, burnt to the ground,” its owner said Wednesday.

Owner Niall Hanley reacted to the devastating fire at the 311 Glenwood building as thick black smoke billowed and dozens of fire, police and emergency workers filled the popular Glenwood South district. The restaurant had been a fixture of the Glenwood South area’s revival since 2000, as smaller shops and the former Pine State Creamery were being turned into nighttime destinations for Raleigh’s burgeoning singles scene.

It drew steady streams of customers with its Irish-based menu and drinks, as well as the comfortable nooks and bars in a series of pub-style rooms.

“She’s gone, burnt to the ground,” Hanley said. “Nobody hurt, thank God.”

Fire officials said they responded to reports of a structure fire at 10:20 a.m. Wednesday. The first on the scene entered the building and identified the source of the fire as the kitchen. The only three people inside the building, thought to be employees, escaped unharmed, but the fire spread quickly across the roof, which eventually collapsed entirely.

Only exterior walls were left standing Wednesday afternoon. Investigators said they found no signs of arson.

Representatives of the restaurant couldn’t be reached later Wednesday to comment on whether the pub would be rebuilt. Supporters started a “Team Hibernian Nation” Facebook page Wednesday in appreciation of the pub and Niall’s charitable outreach, receiving nearly 500 “likes” in its first three hours.

Three trucks with hoses attached to ladders led the effort to contain the flames to one building. An adjacent property suffered smoke damage, but there was no structural damage to other properties. An estimated 50 firefighters responded.

Glenwood Avenue was closed between Lane and North streets into the evening.

The Hibernian location, valued at $350,000 according to Wake County property records, was Hanley’s first business in the Triangle. The native of Ireland was an early stakeholder and a longtime cheerleader for the busy Glenwood South nightlife area. He has since opened another Hibernian in Cary and had plans to open an additional location in North Raleigh.

Glenwood residents Tim and Genessa Devine, who live at the corner of Glenwood and Lane Street, said they heard a firetruck shortly after 10:20 a.m. They watched a series of trucks roll up.

“There was thick black smoke,” Tim Devine said. “Depending on which way the wind was blowing, it was coming into our apartment.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, here or anywhere else.”

The Devines hadn’t often visited the Hibernian, but they regretted its destruction.

“It’s a good bar, and it’s a loss,” Tim Devine said.

James Poole, assistant fire chief, said the timing of the blaze may have been fortunate.

“It’s a blessing this didn’t start last night at early morning,” Poole said. “While it’s a tragedy for the owner, it’s good there were hardly any people there.”

Hanley has long taken pride in the carefully chosen appointments of his establishments, responding with a 2000 letter to the editor when architect Ken Friedlein described the facade of the newly opened Hibernian as a part of a “masquerade” of transformation on Glenwood South.

“Inside you will find a traditional black slate and wood floor, Irish booths and bar, and bits and pieces collected in Ireland,” Hanley wrote. “Along with the brick walls, the other great part of the building is its authentic tin ceiling, discovered after removing the previous tenant’s ceiling tiles.”

Hanley also owns Solas, a restaurant and nightclub a few doors down from the Hibernian on Glenwood South. And he is partnering with Carlos Salamanca, owner of North Raleigh’s beloved Dos Taquitos, to open a Dos Taquitos Xoco in the 410 Glenwood Ave. space formerly occupied by The Diner, which Hanley also owned.

Hanley has been active in the community; the Hibernian Co. received a 2010 award for raising nearly $1 million for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds childhood cancer research.

Even in the midst of ongoing success, the loss of his cornerstone restaurant clearly hit Hanley hard.

“I’m heartbroken, absolutely heartbroken,” he said.

Baird: 919-829-4696

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