Published Monday, 01 October 2012
The building suffered extensive damage in the fire. (© UTV)
The incident happened at McCoy's Bar in Kilmorey Street, where 60 fire service crew and 12 appliances tackled the blaze overnight.
Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service received a report of the fire at 12.35am on Monday, following a call from a passer-by.
Police have confirmed that four men wearing balaclavas put bags over the heads of the staff members and bundled them into a rear yard at around 11.30pm.
They then proceeded to set fire to be pub which resulted in extensive damage to the building.
Chief Inspector Davy Beck said it had been "clearly a frightening incident for all the persons involved".
He confirmed that four unknown men who had been drinking in the bar at around 11pm became involved in a disturbance prior to the arson attack.
During the disturbance a TV and a window of the bar was broken.
"Clearly we would be keen to identify these persons, and a potential link between these incidents is my main line of inquiry at this stage," he said.
MCoy's is a well known local landmark, on the way to Warrenpoint and the city's two football grounds.
Local resident Ann Farrell said the community is devastated at the damage to the bar.
"This is your local for 30 odd years, any parties, any weddings, any christenings - they were all held here and to see this happening is just devastating for us," she said.
Randy McComb, NIFRS Group Commander explained what crews experienced when they arrived at the "difficult and challenging fire".
"They attempted to gain entry into the premises to extinguish the fire and then they heard shouts coming from the rear of the premises, from the back yard," he said.
The pub owner and a barman were rescued and taken to hospital for smoke inhalation and shock.
Ulster Unionist Newry and Armagh MLA Danny Kennedy condemned the robbery and arson attack.
Mr Kennedy said: "It was a mercy that the fire brigade arrived promptly and rescued the two members of staff or we could have been facing a tragedy this morning.
"I would like to commend the bravery and swift response of the emergency services and would appeal to anyone who can assist in catching the gang responsible. Clearly these are very dangerous individuals who must be caught."
© UTV News