Belfast Telegraph

Fire crews fear gutted Manhattan bar in Lurgan close to collapse

BY JOANNE FLEMING

Emergency crews remained at the scene of a pub blaze last night over fears that the gutted building could collapse.

The Manhattan bar in Lurgan was devastated by fire yesterday morning, leaving part of the town centre cordoned off.

It was reported at around 5.30am and took more than five hours to be brought under control.

Footage on social media showed strong flames coming out of the roof of the popular pub, sending debris crashing on to the street.

Fire Service Group Commander Edward Carroll said the fire was well developed when they arrived on the scene at Church Place, with strong winds making it difficult to control. "To the left was an unoccupied building, there was also a credit union and taxi business nearby and we used jets either side of the building to prevent the fire spreading," he said.

"Initially we were given to understand people were still in the premises but we established there was no one there. The manager said he was the last one to leave."

Mr Carroll said that at the height of the blaze five appliances, two aerial appliances and a command support unit involving 41 personnel were involved.

He said extensive damage to the building had caused two floors to collapse as well as the roof to partially collapse.

"It was a difficult fire to bring under control and I have to praise the of crews who actually brought the fire under control at 10.45 this morning," he said. "A structural engineer assessed the premises this afternoon."

Market Street from the junction of Carnegie Street, as well as a filter lane at the front of the Church of Christ the Redeemer, are closed to motorists.

There is also restricted pedestrian access along Market Street beside the bar.

A Roads Service spokesman said: "The road will be closed until the building has been structurally assessed and made safe."

The gastro pub formerly known as The Premier was relaunched last October.

A post by the pub's Facebook page read: "R.I.P The Manhattan... it's been emotional. Many memories for a lot of people in this place."

SDLP councillor Joe Nelson said he felt for members of staff who were possibly out of a job. He also said the disruption to business yesterday in Lurgan was unfortunate.

"This will cause damage to the town centre and I hope a full investigation will be concluded quickly," he said.

"There is a problem with congestion in Lurgan at peak times and the road closure won't help."

Mr Nelson said the bar had a "bit of a chequered history", having undergone several changes of ownership in recent years.

"Lurgan is fairly split in terms of nationalists and unionists," he said. "That bar would be perceived to be in the nationalist end of the town."

He said recent owners had tried to encourage "keeping it as neutral as possible".

Bigipa Margype, who works at nearby takeaway Chaska House, spoke of her shock at the fire.

"It isn't a pretty sight," she said. "We were able to open but it's not good for business. We have been open for two hours and only had one counter order. I hope they hurry up with their investigations."

Police said the cause of the fire is under investigation. They have appealed for information.

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