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Popular downtown Bethlehem pub closed after fire

McCarthy's Red Stag Pub & Whiskey Bar in Bethlehem
RYAN KNELLER / 첥Ƶ
McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub & Whiskey Bar in Bethlehem
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A popular downtown Bethlehem restaurant will be closed for the time being after a small fire broke out there early Saturday morning.

McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub and Whiskey Bar at 534 Main St. suffered minor damage from a small fire in a utility room, owner Neville Gardner said.

“We had it in our utility room in the back of the building,” Gardner said. “Something got left too close to it, like a dirty laundry bag of rags that were going back to be laundered.

“It caught fire, but the great part was that the waterline right above it ruptured and put the fire out.”

Gardner attributed that to “poltergeist” energy. He credits the ghost of Liesel Boeckel, daughter of Georg Friedrich Boeckel, who owned the property during the Revolutionary War. In 1777, Liesel and her mother, Barbara, helped nurse the Marquis de Lafayette, who was recuperating in Bethlehem after being injured during the Battle of Brandywine.

“We’ve had various sorts of poltergeist things happen since I opened back in 1996,” Gardner said. “So we’re putting it down to Liesel.”

Gardner said there was smoke damage, but nothing extensive. The waterline will have to be repaired, before the restaurant reopens, along with some equipment, including the carbon dioxide used for the beer and soda tap system. The water heater and furnace will also be checked.

“We’re hoping it won’t be much longer than a week,” he said. “We had some smoke damage inside so we’re trying to get that off. Fortunately the alarm system went off and the fire company got here really quick and they had one of those keys to the building from the outside so they were able to get in there quickly.”

He said first responders just found smoke when they arrived because of the burst waterline.

The adjoining Donegal Square gift shop wasn’t damaged and was open for business Saturday.

McCarthy’s serves Irish and British food and features a full bar with Irish and Scottish whiskey. Gardner, a native of Northern Ireland, originally opened the restaurant as a bakery and tea room.

The full restaurant opened in 2013. The red stag emblem comes from the McCarthy Coat of Arms.

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