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Residents hope new owner can earn a crust at Marine

By Margaret Canning

Ballycastle residents and visitors alike will greet with glad hearts the news that its one and only hotel is likely to re-open later this year.

The facilities of the hotel, which closed down in winter 2010 when still under the ownership of Mervyn McAlister from the town, have been much missed.

It attracted dozens of weddings to Ballycastle, offered accommodation to visitors and was an important meeting point for people living in the town. Its swimming pool was especially popular with older folk and school children.

Now the hotel makes a forlorn museum piece, sachets of vinegar and sauces displayed on the tables of the front restaurant long after it closed down.

The town has felt it was losing out dramatically since the sudden closure in winter 2010, an event which marked the beginning of the end for Mr McAlister's vast empire.

As the loans he bought it with were with Northern Bank, the hotel avoided the fate of becoming a Nama hotel - something which could actually have improved its fate as Nama has been able to invest in hotels and keep them running.

The big chains in Northern Ireland hospitality are understood to have passed up the chance to acquire it and now it falls to a relative unknown to take up the reins.

It's not unheard of in business for someone new to hotels to take up the chance of ownership by acquiring a venue that's seen better days. Camden Group did it when they took on the O'Neill Arms in Toomebridge, now the White River Hotel.

Now Claire Hunter, whose bread-and-butter business is cuisine convenience item the Toastabag, is now stepping forward with the Marine.

Will toasted sandwiches become a speciality if and when the hotel re-opens? Hopefully we get a chance to find out.

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