Brothers devastated after fire

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The owners of The Manhattan, which was destroyed in a weekend fire, say they are hoping to make the building safe this week so Church Place can be reopened.

The Hughes Brothers told the ‘MAIL’ they are grateful no one was in the bar when the fire broke out and spoke of their devastation that eight part-time and full-time staff have lost their jobs.

The pair revealed a structural engineer had said the roof of the building, which was on fire for more than five hours, is unsafe. They plan to bring a demolition crew to work on the roof.

“It appears that it is the roof that is insecure,” they told the ‘MAIL’. “It is a highly skilled job and we are hoping it can be completed as soon as possible.”

The brothers bought the building some years back and it was officially opened as The Premier in May 2011. However, under new management it became The Manhattan last year.

The building is currently too unsafe to enter to assess the extent of the damage.

“It is devastating to see the building gutted after the fire. Old photographs and pictures were in the building which showed it back to the days of the Commercial Hotel. Even though the business has changed many times, it is an iconic building dating back to the 19th century,” the brothers the ‘MAIL’.

“We would like to take the opportunity to thank the brave Fire Service who travelled from as far away as Belfast to fight the blaze. They did a fantastic job in maintaining the fire to one building. It could easily have spread to the adjoining buildings.

“We would like to thank the public for their messages of support and such encouragement. It is very much appreciated. Unfortunately the damage inside the building is substantial and it will take a massive effort to get back trading. However, the messages make us determined to restore the building and to be back as soon as possible.”

The brothers said they had tremendous support from the public and from Pubs of Ulster.

Just last year the bar scooped a raft of awards, including Pub of the Year for Armagh, Best Food, Armagh, Most Family Friendly and Most Innovative Pub in Armagh.

The brothers’ greatest fear is that the pub will be unsalvagable, however, despite being devastated about the fire, they have been heartened and shored up by the messages of support. They said that just hours after the fire, they were inundated with offers of help to gut the building out and help bring it back to life.

“It is devastating to see the damage, the stench and soot in the air is awful. We are just grateful there were no one in the bar as it had been a busy Saturday night.”

The brothers will be contacting anyone who had booked functions over the next few months. “We built the reputation of the bar on that personal touch,” they said.

“We may have to knock it down and build it from scratch but so far it is still standing.”