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Belfast co-owner of New York's Dead Rabbit bar vows to bounce back after blaze

By Gillian Halliday

The Belfast co-owner of a famous New York bar that was named 'the best pub in the world' in 2016 said yesterday that The Dead Rabbit would "bounce back" after a blaze swept through the building at the weekend.

Sean Muldoon, who runs the Manhattan hostelry with fellow Ardoyne man Jack McGarry was speaking less than 24 hours after the Big Apple inferno was extinguished by firefighters.

"It's just a mess," the 46-year-old said in the aftermath of the fire, which was reported on Sunday at around 7am local time.

"The damage is confined to the back of the building.

"The kitchen's destroyed, the bathrooms have been damaged, along with the basement.

"The bar area itself looks OK, but with the sprinkler system there is water damage.

"Thankfully, staff had switched off the gas supply, which ensured that what could have been a much worse situation was averted.

"The bar's in a 200-year-old building and fires are reported every single day in New York, and it's always in the back of your mind that one day it might happen - and now it has."

Named after the 19th century New York gang that controlled lower Manhattan, The Dead Rabbit was established in 2013 by the pair who were headhunted by a US businessman while working at Belfast's Merchant Hotel.

Since then the co-owners have carved out a critically-acclaimed reputation for its cocktails, atmosphere and dining experience.

Mr Muldoon vowed that The Dead Rabbit would reopen its doors sooner rather than later.

And he added that he'd never witnessed an emergency response by the authorities on such a scale as he had seen on Sunday.

"There must have been between 20 and 25 fire trucks. The street was closed off," he explained.

"Our building's in one of the oldest blocks in Manhattan and they worried about the fire causing a chain reaction.

"The firefighters were there from around 7am until one o'clock yesterday (Monday) afternoon."

The blaze is believed to have originated in the bar's kitchen, although the New York Fire Department is continuing its investigations.

"How much damage has been done is not yet clear," Mr Muldoon said.

"But we opened in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, so we can overcome this.

"The bar will bounce back.

"If the Fire Department is done with their investigation, we could be back to serving drinks in a week.

"But that's dependent on the authorities. It could be the end of the summer before we are back, without serving food for a further three months."

The final bill for the damage is also something that has yet to be determined.

"There's the cost to the building itself and then there's the loss of earnings and the cost of wages for our 46 staff members.We just don't know what that will be at this stage," Mr Muldoon added.

He did, however, say that he was overwhelmed by messages from well-wishers on both sides of the Atlantic.

"Sixty percent of our customers are tourists and between 60 and 65% of that are Irish," he said.

"Yesterday I could just see the Irish tourists standing outside the bar, who were in New York for their honeymoon or for a break, and it was their only chance to visit the bar before they headed home, so it's disappointing for us that this has happened.

"We're incredibly thankful for all of the support we've had, though.

"We've had our problems in the past and our hold-ups, but we will get through this."

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