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Arson attack guts top floor of bar

By Evan Short

A landmark bar on Oldpark Road was almost destroyed this week when arsonists set fire to the roof in what police are describing as a malicious attack.

The Corner House – formally known as Henry Joy’s – was set on fire in the early hours of Wednesday morning (April 2) in an incident that the owner told the North Belfast News would cost a five figure sum to repair.

So much petrol was poured into the  building that it seeped through the upstairs floorboards into the bar below. Michael Markey said he was very lucky to still have a business to open.

“The Fire Brigade have saved the day here. If they had have been five minutes later I would have been facing ruin.”

Extensive damage has been caused to the roof and the upstairs function room at what Michael says is one of their busiest times of the year.

“We had confirmation parties booked in and I have had to tell one family I cannot host it now. We are trying to get them fixed up in another bar but this will cost us money.”

He said panicked staff had also been in contact with him, fearful for their jobs.

“Between DJs and cleaners and bar staff we employ around 11 people. It’s not a lot but it’s 11 families relying on a wage and those jobs were put at risk. There has been a lot of vandalism around here lately with cars being burned out and we think it had something to do with that.”

Manager Brendan Di Lucia said he had closed up for the night and was at home when he got the call.

“I couldn’t believe it. I came straight back and the place was in flames. Only it was caught when it was it would have been disaster.”

Michael said forensics had examined the scene and he was hopeful the culprits would be caught.

“These people need to realise they put a lot of jobs at risk here. It’s heartbreaking to be honest. We have been working hard since we bought the place two years ago to develop it. We opened the off licence and have been doing bits and pieces to try and improve the business and then this happens.”

Despite the damage caused, the main bar and a downstairs function room are still operational.

“We were very lucky,” he said.

A PSNI spokesman asked for the public’s assistance in tracing the people behind the attack.

“Detectives in North Belfast are appealing for information following a fire at a public house in the Oldpark Road area of the city during the early hours of this morning.

“At around 2.30am it was reported that the premises were on fire. Police and NIFRS attended and the fire was extinguished. Damage was caused to the premises as a result.

“Police are treating the fire as malicious and are appealing for anyone who witnessed the incident or anyone with any information to contact Detectives at Tennent Street Police Station on the new non-emergency number 101. Or, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details they can contact  Crimestoppers and speak to them anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

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