Sadness as fire takes ‘gem in the mountains’

by Gary Ibbotson

Last Saturday tragedy fell upon the community of Tibradden as one of the most popular cafes in the area burnt down.

The Hazel House was founded by Niall Fitzharris just over five years ago and has grown into a local favourite.

Fitzharris says that the cafe began out of humble beginnings, initially starting as a side business to his wood workshop that is located next door.

The Honesty Box, as it was called then, served teas and coffees while Fitzharris gave woodworking classes to adults and children.

“As more people started to come and it got busier and busier, we put in a proper kitchen and other things like a pizza oven and a smoker for smoking meats,” he says.

Praise has been heaped upon the quaint cafe and restaurant with Colette Kinsella on Facebook calling it a “fantastic little gem in the mountains” and Maria Ní Mhurchu saying “The Hazel House is one of the most remarkable charming places going.”

Located in Tibradden, The Hazel House also offered a petting zoo where guests could meet and pet local animals that were often seen wandering around the grounds.

The cafe also ran activities such as their popular Saturday morning walks up the mountains, movie nights, kids parties and pizza and wine evenings.

Fitzharris told Dublin Gazette that the fire started at about 12:30pm on Saturday, 30 March. It was initially discovered when a staff member found an electrical cable entering a building beside Fitzharris’s workshop was in flames.

“One of the chefs grabbed the fire extinguisher and tried to put it out. I tried to get people out of the café and out of the house next door.”

“We couldn’t get the fire down, it just spread so rapidly,” he says. The extinguisher just didn’t do anything, I suppose because it was an electrical fire and, in a few minutes, the whole place was in flames.”

Fitzharris says that the “whole workshop and kitchen are gone.”

“The structure of the building looks OK. The fire luckily didn’t get into the actual cafe seating area,” he says.

“There is smoke and water damage in there. Other than that, the cafe is OK.”

Fitzharris says he is determined to get his beloved café and workshop back up and running as quickly as possible.

“We have few things to wait for. A few forums and paperwork – but we built this business from scratch before and we will do it again.”

“I’m going to open a temporary workshop so we can keep running the courses for the adults and kids while we rebuild,” he says.

Messages of support have come flooding in for Fitzharris and his much loved cafe.

“My goodness! Sorry to see this. A lovely, unique spot for a family treat. Best wishes to all,” says Ruth Fitzsimon on social media.

“Was so sad to hear the news but you have such support from locals and beyond for your fantastic little spot, hope to see you back soon,” added Niamh Riney.

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