Coming from his home near Cameron Village Wednesday morning, Hibernian owner Niall Hanley could see a plume of smoke over Glenwood South coming from his "baby."
"Shock, horror," Hanley recalled of this sight. "Yesterday was surreal to see an Irish pub burning down in the rain."
Hanley could only stand-back and watch as a grease fire consumed Hibernian Pub at the corner of Glenwood Avenue and West North Street. Hanley said, "I guess I'm a little bit in shock."
But with three new restaurants in the works for the new year, Hanley isn't one to sit around long. In fact, he says he already has grand plans for the old Hibernian space.
"Hibernian 2.0 -- bigger, better," Hanley said only half jokingly. "How do you do a three-story pub and a rooftop? I don't know, the city might not let me but we'll definitely try."
Perhaps more sincere, Hanley added, "It's a building, and what made Hibernian are its customers and staff. We can rebuild it and hopefully everybody will come back. It will be better."
Depending on engineering reports on the building’s structural soundness, Hanley said passersby should begin to notice work being done in the next two weeks.
"We probably won't be building, but we might do some of the excavation work. And if there's demolition work to be done, we'll do that as soon as we can."
Nearly 13 years ago, Hanley opened Hibernian Pub on Glenwood Avenue. In the years since then, the pub has been a fixture in the revitalization of Glenwood South and ultimately downtown Raleigh.
But by Wednesday afternoon, that symbol of renewal was in ruins -- charred remains concealing the countless memories made by of the pub's devoted customers who packed the building nightly.
"You can build a beautiful box and decorate it, but it's filling it with the people and memories," Hanley spoke of Hibernian’s legacy. "I had a lieutenant in downtown Raleigh walk up to me and show me a photograph of his baby girl, and he said, 'Without that pub, that would never have happened.' He met his wife there.
"The amount of stories that I'm getting like that is incredible."
After the blaze, Hanley instantly began seeing an out-pouring of support from the community, including a "Team Hibernian Nation" Facebook page with a quickly growing fan base. Thursday afternoon, a day after the blaze, that page had more than 2,000 fans.
"It proves to me the point that Hibernian was about the customers ... the customers made the pub what it is," Hanley said. "What's making it a lot easier is the overwhelming response from our customers. I've never seen anything like it.
"I'm very proud and very honored that the little pub is regarded that way."
In addition to the Glenwood location, Hanley owns a Hibernian restaurant in Cary and in January will open a third pub in north Raleigh. He also owns Solas restaurant and lounge on Glenwood South and plans to open a Mexican cantina in the nearby Creamery Building.
Recently he acquired the space in Raleigh Mordecai neighborhood once occupied by Rosie's Plate. He plans to open a brew pub in that building
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