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Apartment bar in bid to regain glory with £750k revamp

By Jamie Stinson

Published 13/04/2015

An artist’s impression of some of the planned changes to the bar
An artist’s impression of some of the planned changes to the bar

Well-known bar The Apartment is receiving a £750,000 facelift to try and bring it back to its glory days, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The major investment at the venue in Donegall Square beside the City Hall will see the introduction of a new roof terrace, which involved removing part of a floor in the building. The two-floor bar closed in March for the refurbishment with only downstairs open, and the grand opening will be May 30.

David Neely, general manager of the Downey Group of bars, said the changes will bring the Apartment back to where it was in its heyday.

"It's a great building and great location, and this will give an injection to get it back to where it was," he said.

"This bar is a feeder bar to the rest of the town - we want to turn it into a destination. It's a more cosmopolitan-style bar."

Seamus and Henry Downey bought the Apartment from the administrators of the Botanic Inns group of companies in 2013.

The Apartment was part of a portfolio of pubs held in Kurkova Ltd, along with other bars including McHughs and the Kitchen Bar in Victoria Square - which the Downeys also bought.

The brothers also own the Sugar Nightclub in Londonderry city centre and Downey's Bar in Magherafelt.

They are, however, even better known as former GAA football champions who played in Derry's All-Ireland winning team in 1993.

The Apartment suffered from lack of investment for many years, and now the owners are bringing it up-to-date. "The layout was totally wrong, you had to walk through the restaurant to get to the bar. It will be a bar/wine bar feel downstairs, and upstairs will be cocktails," Mr Neely said.

He said the Apartment would steer away from the theme of exposed beams and brick walls.

"This is not going to be shabby chic, it will be very opulent and classy," he said.

Since the Apartment's glory days of the early noughties, Belfast has changed considerably, with the Cathedral Quarter becoming the go-to area for a Saturday night on the town.

"The Cathedral Quarter has had a shift in popularity, but the location for the Apartment is not a worry for us," Mr Neely said.

"The Cathedral Quarter is a great location at the weekend, but the Apartment is great seven days a week.

"At the City Hall we are happy enough. There's a lot of top-quality restaurants in the area.

"We'll have a five-star hotel (The Mutual, located in the former Scottish Mutual Building) opposite us, and there's new places like Rita's, Chinawhite, and Shiro.

"The passing trade is incredible.

"We do a couple thousand takeaway coffees a week."

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