Raleigh, N.C. — The owner of Hibernian Pub in Raleigh says he plans to rebuild "bigger and better" the Glenwood South mainstay, which was destroyed by a grease fire Wednesday morning.
"It'll be good," Niall Hanley said Thursday. "Nobody was hurt. That's the blessing. The customers made Hibernian. We'll rebuild again, and they'll remake the whole idea."
Flames broke out at the Irish bar, at 311 Glenwood Ave., around 10:20 a.m., and black smoke billowed from the landmark fixture for more than an hour as firefighters battled the blaze.
"I guess I'm a little bit in shock," Hanley said. "What's making it a lot easier is the overwhelming response of my customers."
Fans of the pub have started "Team Hibernian Nation" on Facebook in support of Hanley "after the many good things he's done for the community, his employees and his patrons."
As of Thursday evening, more than 2,200 people had liked the page.
Since it opened, the bar was not only an anchor for Glenwood South's economic revival. Customers say the Hibernian has become like a second home to them, drawing in regular patrons who have become like family.
"It's not just a pub," Hanley said. "You can build a beautiful box and decorate it, but it's filled with the memories and the people."
Some of those people stopped by Thursday to take photos and get a look at what's left of the downtown landmark.
"I've never seen anything like it," Hanley said. "I'm very proud, very honored that the little pub is regarded that way."
One man, he said, showed Hanley a photo of his baby girl.
"He said, 'Without that pub, that would never have happened.' He met his wife there," Hanley said. "The amount of stories that I'm getting like that are incredible. So, again, to me, the Hibernian was about the customers. It's about my staff."
Employees, some who have been with the bar since it opened, won't be out of work.
Hanley said they will take jobs at his other bars. He owns Hibernian Pub in Cary, and he is also expected to open a new bar of the same name next month in north Raleigh.
Bartender Chandler Carmichael is now working at Solas, another Glenwood Avenue eatery that Hanley owns. The restaurant is now serving some of Hibernian's menu items.
"You worry about, you know, what you're going to do next, but unbelievably, Niall has been amazing through all of this," Carmichael said. "We're all at work again."
Many Hibernian customers already are visiting Solas to be with familiar faces, he said.