For “20 odd years” up until 2007, Paul Jones was a regular fixture at Airds’ Riverside Inn.
The former publican said he was stunned and saddened to hear the the pub had been destroyed beyond repair by a fire yesterday morning.
“I was a shocked,” he said.
“It’s sad to see it burn down … but I hope (the owners) rebuilt it.”
Emergency services were called to the blaze at 2am after a fire alarm woke a resident of the pub. Twenty-four fire trucks and more than 70 firefighters were called to the scene and it took about three-and-a-half hours to fully extinguish the blaze.
Mr Jones said there was often a negative stigma that surrounded the pub, however, he had fond memories of the inn, its customers and the Airds area.
“We used to do a lot of things for charity (at the pub),” he said.
“We did a lolly drive every Sunday before Christmas for about 20 years, where we drove around Airds handing out lolly bags.
“We’d also look after the pensioners down the road.
“It had a bad stigma but the people in the area were very good and down to earth.
“It was a good business – I enjoyed it.”
Peter Andrew, a friend of Mr Jones who moved to the area in 1986, said he was “devastated” to hear about the fire.
“On social media I saw people say it was a dump, but it was a great place,” he said.