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New additions show pub industry is rejuvenating in Northern Ireland, say trade leaders

By Lesley Houston

The newest additions to Belfast's rejuvenated pub and restaurant scene are proof of "growing confidence" among both investors and punters, according to a trade body representing the industry.

Gerry White, chairman of the Belfast branch of Pubs of Ulster, said that investment in Belfast nightlife was paying off in terms of the spend by both local and visiting patrons to the new venues.

"It's showing growing confidence that people are investing in the local hospitality industry particularly in pubs and restaurants," he said.

"Even in the last couple of weeks we've seen an increase in the number of tourists in the city."

Mr White, manager of the popular John Hewitt bar in Donegall Street, added: "People are certainly coming out at the weekends. We've still a long way to go and it's still a bit quiet during the week, but at weekends, the new venues are bringing people out to enjoy the nightlife."

He added that the city's flourishing restaurant trade was a big contributing factor to the increasing footfall.

"We've had four new venues open in around the Cathedral Quarter alone and all the new restaurants in Belfast are brilliant," he said.

"There is now plenty of choice and that will drive up quality because of the competition.

"The quality of our restaurants here is excellent.

"People go out for dinner and they go for a drink before or afterwards and there's plenty of choice and it's good quality choice at that too."

Pubs of Ulster says that the licensed trade is a vital part of Northern Ireland's economy, employing 35,000 people and contributing £1bn annually to the local economy.

The body also says that pubs are part of the largest grossing tourism sector in Northern Ireland with almost 80% of all tourists visiting a pub and almost 70% eating in one during their stay.

New research out this week from Barclays Bank shows that restaurants and pubs in Northern Ireland will see an increase of 25% in spend to £165m from domestic tourists by 2017 as more people dine out, while hotels and B&Bs will see spend rise by 21%.

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