Belfast Telegraph

Botanic Inns loses £950,000 as pubs face crisis

The struggling local economy has forced one of Northern Ireland’s largest pub chains into a £950,000 loss last year.

Botanic Inns, which owns 13 well-known venues in Belfast including the Apartment, the Botanic Inn and the Northern Whig, is the latest pub company to reflect the woes of a sector badly hit by the consumers with less money to spend on a night out.

“The industry is in a critical state,” Colin Neill, from industry body Pubs of Ulster, said. “When you see an organisation as professional and well run as Botanic Inns struggling the its indicative of the state of the industry.”

He said the Government should try and help the pub sector by cutting out many legal hurdles which are currently holding back sales.

“All we tend to get is disabling legislation. We only sell 20% of alcohol in Northern Ireland but we get regulated to the hilt.”

And he said Botanic Inns was performing better than other pub chains.

Stephen Magorgan, the managing director of Botanic Inns, conceded that turnover was down in the year to the end of May 2010 which the results referred to but put much of the loss down to one-off costs amounting to £1.5m which refer to writedowns in the likes of property value.

While trading conditions remain difficult he was positive for the months ahead.

“It’s a struggle in that everything is about cashflow,” he said in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph. “In terms of prospects things are brighter. Most of the pubs are trading well, particularly those with food and particularly those in Belfast city centre.”

And he agreed that government need to help the industry.

“We get no support from government in any way. The increase in vat doesn’t help and we definitely could do with more from them.”

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Botanic Inns currently has 16 outlets in its portfolio, including two hotels and two off-sales. The report refers to 13 pubs, hotels and restaurants including the jewels of the group’s crown: the Botanic Inn and the Apartment.

The others are the Kitchen Bar and McHughs, established in 1859 and 1711 respectively, Denvir’s hotel, restaurant and bar, the Globe, the King’s Head restaurant and bar, Madison’s Hotel, Molly Brown’s Kitchen and Bar, the Northern Whig, the Parador, Ryan’s bar and restaurant and the Taphouse.

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