Man with petrol bomb restrained by patrons at Belfast bar
Drinkers at an historic Belfast city centre pub had a lucky escape after a man understood to have been refused service returned with a petrol bomb.
Patrons enjoying evening drinks in Kelly's Cellars at Bank Street on Saturday were shocked and stunned when a man burst into the bar at around 8pm carrying a bottle of petrol with a sock hanging out of it.
The man smashed the device on the floor but it did not ignite.
As he turned to make his escape he was restrained by patrons until the police arrived.
A PSNI spokesman last night confirmed a 33-year-old man has been charged with offences, including making and throwing a petrol bomb.
He is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates Court on Friday, August 23. The suspect is also charged with common assault and criminal damage.
A 32-year-old man was also arrested at the scene on suspicion of obstructing police but was was later released pending a report to the PPS.
Incredibly, the consequences of what might have been, just a hundred yards from Belfast's main shopping area on Royal Avenue, failed to ruin the night out for revellers in the packed pub.
Manager Kieran Uprichard said: "It was all over so quickly some people didn't even realise what had happened and it didn't dampen spirits."
He added the bar was packed when the man came in, with a number of foreign tourists among the regulars.
Mr Uprichard also confirmed that the suspect had been at the pub previously, but had not been allowed entry.
He said: "He had been refused at the door for wearing tracksuit bottoms."
Last night, there was no sign of what could have been. A sizeable, cheery crowd took up every table outside, and most of those inside.
Few people, apart from the manager, appeared to be talking about the attack. Although it's a pub with a high proportion of regulars, there was none there last night who was present during the attempted petrol-bombing.
One man in he pub last night said he knew the alleged assailant.
He added: "As far as I know he's already out again."
Most said even if they had been there, it would not put them off coming back.
Keith McErlane from Glengormley said: "They do traditional Irish music here six nights a week so its worth coming here for that alone."
Others including Beth Harris from Belfast and her friends recommended the food.
Another punter commented: "It's a traditional Irish pub and there are few enough of them left in Belfast."
Built in 1720 in an area just off Royal Avenue, the bar is one of few original buildings left in the area and benefits from proximity to CastleCourt and several thriving restaurants.
The oldest licensed premises in the city, it was built originally by Belfast merchant Hugh Kelly as a bonded warehouse to store rum, gin and whiskey.
A blue plaque outside confirms its history as a meeting place for Henry Joy McCracken and the United Irishmen when they were planning the 1798 Rising.
And legend has it that McCracken hid behind the bar when soldiers came for him.
It may be one of the city's oldest pubs, but Kelly's remains cutting edge with a keen line in Baileys and whiskey-flavoured frappes – and a very loyal and mixed clientele.