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 last week.
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 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.
Assistant Fire Chief James Poole said the cause was a grease fire in the kitchen, although a final investigative report is not yet complete.
Amanda Pope, marketing director for the Hibernian Co., said Thursday that owners will rebuild.
The Hibernian’s 33 employees will be dispersed to the company’s other restaurants, Pope said. All the bartenders are going to work at Solas, a high-end restaurant and bar a few doors down from the Hibernian.
Depending on each employee’s situation, they will have jobs at the Hibernian in Cary or two new restaurants Hanley is opening next month: another Hibernian on Falls of Neuse Road in North Raleigh or Dos Taquitos Xoco at 410 Glenwood Ave.
Supporters started a “Team Hibernian Nation” Facebook page Wednesday in appreciation of the pub and Niall’s charitable outreach.
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.
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.
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 Glenwood South.
Poole 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.”
Even in the midst of ongoing success, the loss of his cornerstone restaurant clearly hit Hanley hard.
“I’m heartbroken, absolutely heartbroken,” he said.