Belfast Telegraph

Iconic Crown Bar open again after forgetting to renew licence

The pints flow once more as regulars and tourists toast reopening of famous Crown Bar after licensing blunder

By Amanda Ferguson

Belfast's landmark public house the Crown Bar is back in business.

Belfast's most famous pub welcomed regulars, new customers and tourists from all over the world yesterday after it reopened following a problem with its licence blamed on an "administration oversight".

A cheer went up as very happy looking general manager Will Elliott unlocked the front gates at 11.30am and the Crown Liquor Saloon – much to the relief of all interested parties – was back serving alcohol after being shut for a week.

The Victorian gin palace is famed the world over for its ornate decor, stained-glass, beautifully crafted woodwork, Italian-designed mosaic tiling and 10 private snugs.

Kiran Sharma, a regular customer from Belfast, was the first person to be served in the National Trust-owned Grade A listed building – and ordered a pint of Tennent's.

"The Crown is a long time here. The licence issue shouldn't have happened. I am happy to be here to support them reopening," he said.

Pat and Breeda Moynihan, from Co Cork, the next customers in line, were on their first visit to Belfast.

Pat said: "We came for the Titanic attraction and we heard about The Crown in the news and I wanted to have a pint of Guinness."

Breeda added: "He's been like a hen with an egg trying to get in here since we came."

Tom Sweeney, originally from Glasgow, has been a regular customer of The Crown for the last 20 years.

"The Crown is a visual feast," Mr Sweeney said. "It's eye candy. It just oozes history. It's fabulous.

"I just came back from Dublin last Thursday night and I was going to pop in for pint and it was closed, so it was a bit of a mystery. I learned the following morning that some eejit had lapsed the licence, but it's open again today, so happy days."

Tourists Dave and Kasey Eaves, from Chicago, were very impressed by The Crown.

Dave said: "We had read about The Crown being a famous place and a really nice ornate room.

"It's such an amazing place. It's gorgeous. It lives up to the expectations."

Kasey said: "We're staying at Jurys down the street, so for us The Crown was right here and we've walked by it a couple of times.

"We had a few people in the bar say how sad that they were that we couldn't come and see this place, and they said that it's always where they take someone new. It's so beautiful."

Tom, from Hertfordshire, regularly visits Belfast on business and arrived yesterday in the city to see friends.

"We knew nothing of the licensing issue, but I knew of The Crown as I've been in here before," he explained.

"When we arrived this morning, we were picked up at the airport and the guy told us that it was open for the first time today, so we dropped our bags in the hotel across the road.

"We had to wait an hour, so we had to have a cup of tea in the hotel and waited for the doors to open.

"You can't stay in The Europa and not come in here. It's such a unique building. It's first-class."

Attention now turns to the other Belfast pubs to suffer similar licence lapses recently.

The Great Eastern, Cock & Hen and the Royal Bar have all closed in the last week.

The case of the Cock & Hen bar in east Belfast will be heard at Laganside Court on January 23.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Pubs of Ulster, has said he hopes they "will be given the same treatment and are dealt with as swiftly as possible".

Background

Since 1996 liquor licences in Northern Ireland have been renewed once every five years.

Due to an "administration oversight" Crown Bar licensee Mitchells & Butlers failed to renew its licence in September 2012. The pub was forced to close on Friday, January 10 until the licence issue could be resolved.

On Wednesday at Laganside Court Judge David McFarland renewed the licence, and yesterday the famous Belfast pub reopened its doors to the public.

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