UK pub giant Wetherspoons has launched plans to open a pub in Belfast's lower Royal Avenue, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Wetherspoons' incursion into the previously-overlooked part of town could coincide with the arrival of tens of thousands of students, who will move in as part of the University of Ulster's relocation from Jordanstown into the city centre.
Construction of the new campus has already begun and is expected to be complete by 2018.
It's believed the pub giant is buying a former JJB store next to CastleCourt shopping centre, which will be its 10th pub in Northern Ireland and its second in Belfast.
Company spokesman Eddie Gershon said it was keen to open new pubs in Northern Ireland but he would not comment on the specific site.
A spokesman for commercial property agents Frazer Kidd said a buyer had been found for the unit, but would not comment on the identity of the party.
However, the Belfast Telegraph understands the sale has been agreed, and that the opening of a pub at the site is now subject to planning and the obtaining of a licence.
David Wright, a director at commercial property agents CBRE, said: "A new opening at this site will hopefully breathe some new life into that section of Royal Avenue. Generally in the past once you got past CastleCourt entrance footfall fell off a cliff.
"I believe it also shows that companies are getting ready for the infux of students in that part of town once the new university campus is up and running."
Frazer Kidd's brochure describes Royal Avenue as "one of the best and busiest retail thoroughfares in Belfast city centre".
Wetherspoons chairman Tim Martin has said the company is looking at locations all over Ireland.
It will open its first pub in the Republic in Blackrock next month.
Meanwhile, in another development, UK clothing company SuperGroup has confirmed it is looking to exit its store on Royal Avenue, opposite JJB – and hopes to obtain planning permission for a change of use into a restaurant before doing so.
Supermarket giant Tesco yesterday confirmed its new opening in the area willl go ahead.
It will unveil an Express format store in Sinclair House at the end of Royal Avenue – another locaiton which will benefit from the student pound.
In December last year Tescco came under attack for starting demolition work at the listed building without securing planning approval or the required consent.
However, corporate affairs manager Richard Holligan said yesterday: "As of May 23 all planning permission is in order and the Tesco Express at Sinclair House is going ahead."
Helen Harrison, a director at JUNO Planning and Environmental in south Belfast, said the arrival of the University of Ulster into Belfast city centre was "really big news".
The university is investing £250m in its new campus, which Ms Harrison said would bring 12,450 students into the city.