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Dead rat Belfast bar Alley Cat becomes Bootleggers

By Claire McNeilly

Published 16/07/2015

All change: the newly named Bootleggers yesterday
All change: the newly named Bootleggers yesterday
How the Alley Cat bar in Belfast looked before its facelift

A Belfast bar which was fined after a dead rat was found on the premises is to reopen under a new name, it can be revealed.

The Alley Cat bar in Belfast's Church Lane will now become Bootleggers.

The owners opted for a complete refurbishment and rebranding after being fined for food hygiene offences following the discovery of the rat in a store.

With its class, elegant, retro styling, the new bar - which is expected to open within the next few days - is in sharp contrast to its predecessor.

The new name has been a closely guarded secret - but the signs were spotted by the Belfast Telegraph yesterday.

Hospitality Ulster spokesman Colin Neill said the bar would enhance the "already fantastic offering" in the greater Cathedral Quarter.

"We're looking forward to the opening of Bootleggers," he said.

"It has undergone a complete refit and the premises have been totally transformed.

"A lot of time and effort has gone into making the new bar a top rate venue."

Refurbishment work on the popular former bar and restaurant has been continuing for over a week.

It is understood that the plan is to be fully operational by the end of the traditional July Twelfth holiday period.

The massive rebranding operation follows the rat incident, which resulted in a £950 fine earlier this month.

Belfast City Council was also awarded costs of £66 in relation to food hygiene offences after the case was heard at Belfast Magistrates Court.

The prosecution was taken by Belfast City Council against the food operator of Alley Cat following a complaint from a member of the public who reported seeing a rat inside the bar.

During a visit to the premises on February 12, 2014, environmental health officers found a dead rat in a walk-in fridge that was being used to store food and beer.

Following the incident, the Limited Company agreed to an immediate voluntary closure of the kitchen.

In court, Alley Cat Bar Limited pleaded guilty to five food hygiene offences, namely:

  •  failure to protect food from contamination by pests;
  •  failure to protect food from other contamination likely to render it unfit for human consumption;
  •  failure to put in place, implement and maintain a food safety management system based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points Principles;
  •  failure to supervise, instruct and train staff; and
  •  failure to ensure the kitchen wash hand basin was available for cleaning hands and provided with hygienic hand-drying materials.

Given its radical and swanky facelift, Bootleggers bears absolutley no resemblance to its predecessor, which was a much gritter, no-nonsense pub and eaterie.

It will be another new kid on the city centre block, following the opening of rooftop bar The Perch in Belfast's Linen Quarter last month.

The latter is part of a redevelopment that includes Sweet Afton bar, which is due to open next month and will replace the space previously occupied by Shiro.

Both bars are located within an historic building situated across Brunswick Street, Franklin Street and James Street South.

In accordance with the Food Standards Agency's National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, the results of food hygiene inspections are now published. A rating of 0 means urgent improvement is necessary, with 5 meaning food hygiene standards are very good.

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