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Belfast hotel rescues bride's big day after Portaferry reception blow

By Claire McNeilly

Published 21/10/2015

Leonie Kelly (right), with hotel manager Martha Tumelty, has had to rearrange her wedding reception
Leonie Kelly (right), with hotel manager Martha Tumelty, has had to rearrange her wedding reception
The sudden closure of the Portaferry Hotel is a blow for the tourism economy. Pic Brian Little/Presseye
The sudden closure of the Portaferry Hotel is a blow for the tourism economy. Pic Brian Little/Presseye
The sudden closure of the Portaferry Hotel is a blow for the tourism economy. Pic Brian Little/Presseye
The sudden closure of the Portaferry Hotel is a blow for the tourism economy. Pic Brian Little/Presseye
The sudden closure of the Portaferry Hotel is a blow for the tourism economy. Pic Brian Little/Presseye
The sudden closure of the Portaferry Hotel is a blow for the tourism economy. Pic Brian Little/Presseye
The sudden closure of the Portaferry Hotel is a blow for the tourism economy. Pic Brian Little/Presseye

A major hotel has stepped in at the eleventh hour to save a distressed Co Down couple's big day.

Bride-to-be Leonie Kelly was left devastated following the sudden closure of the Portaferry Hotel, which was due to host her wedding reception on Friday.

The 27-year-old was preparing to move the event for 120 guests to the local community centre when that fell through too - but fortunately, with just 48 hours to go, the Stormont Hotel offered her a replacement venue.

The mother-of-two said that both she and her bricklayer fiancé Neil McCluskey (33) were delighted by the news, particularly following the trauma of a cancellation at such short notice.

She added that their sons Kenzie (four) and Kaelem (two) are now looking forward to the wedding - and spending the night in the east Belfast hotel.

"It was absolutely devastating to hear that my dream wedding was ruined," she said. "People from England and Belfast have booked time off work and we were upset that they didn't have anywhere to stay.

"However, now that the Stormont Hotel has stepped in all our problems are over! We are so grateful to them for doing this."

She added: "We also want to thank all the staff at the Portaferry Hotel who all pulled together to help save the day." Leonie had been preparing to have the reception in Portaferry Community Centre, but that fell through yesterday afternoon.

"We're from Portaferry and we had wanted to keep the wedding local, but we're happy enough to change location at this stage," she said.

"We also had offers from the Spa Golf Club in Ballynahinch and Cultra Manor, and we're very grateful, but Stormont Hotel offered us a package that best suited our needs."

Julie Hastings, marketing director for Hastings Hotels, said they were pleased to be able to help.

"When we heard that Leonie's wedding venue had cancelled only days before it was due to take place we were happy to step in and offer our assistance," she said.

"We were delighted to offer the couple the venue, and general manager Jonathan Topping and his team are working closely with the couple to ensure they have a wedding day to remember this Friday."

In a statement Beannchor, the group that owns the building, said the Portaferry Hotel "has regrettably been forced to close until further notice".

The Portaferry Hotel shut its doors to customers on Monday after tenant William McAleese said he had to close because it was losing money. Martha Tumelty (38), hotel manageress for over 10 years, spoke of her shock at discovering the premises had been "cleared out".

"When I opened the doors at 8am yesterday to serve breakfast to residents I realised the safe had been emptied, the drink had been taken and the computers were gone," she said.

"I informed head office straight away and that's when I found out that the worst case scenario was about to happen and they were coming down to change the locks on the doors. That's when it became completely devastating for us all."

She said she hoped to take over the management of the premises.

"I would go into immediate negotiations to open this hotel again or, if they would give me the keys, I could have this hotel up and running in a couple of hours.

"Even if I hadn't got the keys until Friday morning, Leonie's wedding could still have gone ahead. I had everything ready for it."

In its statement Beannchor said: "We were notified late on Sunday, October 18, that the tenants, Mr and Mrs McAleese, intended to leave the business with immediate effect."

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