Belfast Telegraph

Co Down hotel popular with Van Morrison to become apartments

By John Mulgrew

A once thriving Co Down hotel which hosted stars such as Van Morrison is being given a new lease of life amid a £3m plan to revamp the building.

Bangor’s Royal Hotel, which has been derelict for four years and is more than 280 years old, has been bought by Expedia Capital. It plans to turn the former hotel into apartments and ground-floor restaurants.

The scheme is estimated to cost £3m and 40 jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase, with a further 50 created in the restaurant units.

The building’s facade will be retained and the upper floors converted into 21 “high-quality apartments”, with the ground floor transformed into four modern restaurant units.

The famous venue was put on the market last year for £950,000.

Summed up in a sales brochure as ‘the spirit of Bangor,’ the Royal Hotel has hosted Van Morrison and other big names over its long history.

But it’s been closed since October 2014. The hotel was built in 1773 and then rebuilt in 1932 by the O’Hara family.

The O’Haras ran it until the early 1990s before selling it to the Donegan family.

John Ferris of Expedia Capital said: “We are delighted to be able to bring life back to an iconic Bangor building, which enjoys terrific views over the Irish Sea and sustain it for future generations.

“The scheme will help in the ongoing and successful regeneration of the Bangor sea front and bring further life to the town’s marine quarter.

“A key part of the plan is to preserve the frontage of the Royal Hotel building and we are confident that the redevelopment will add to the commercial life of Bangor,” Mr Ferris added.

Fixed charge receivers had been selling the property after Royal Hotel (Bangor) Ltd was placed in receivership.

The hotel has 50 rooms, two bars, a beer garden and a restaurant.

At the time of the hotel’s sudden closure in October 2014, long-term employee Ricky Gordon reminisced about the stay of Giant Haystacks, a major celebrity in the early 1980s.

The wrestler has required its doors to be folded back to accommodate his size.

Permission was granted in 2011 for plans to rebuild the hotel. The plans provided for the demolition of the hotel and replacement with a new 52-room hotel and 33 apartments.

Plans to rebuild the hotel again a few years ago were drawn up, but abandoned following delays in obtaining planning permission and the onset of the recession.

Thousands of people have crossed the threshold over the years and among the regulars was singing legend Van Morrison, who was often seen eating in the restaurant.

At the time of the hotel’s closure, DUP councillor Adam Harbinson said that it was the “spirit of Bangor”.

“It is just part of old Bangor, it’s almost the spirit of Bangor,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Co Tyrone hotel popular with country music fans has been given a new lease of life after being taken over by new owners.

The Mellon Country Hotel is now being run by the Mahoney family, who have links to the Omagh area but are now behind a New York property company.

The hotel shut in September last year after the company running it went into administration with the loss of 30 jobs.

But it now has a workforce of around 50 people, including some who worked for the previous owners.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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