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JD Wetherspoon bid for licence to open Belfast pub on Royal Avenue

By Rachel Martin

Bosses at JD Wetherspoon have lodged a drinks licence application for a new pub in the heart of Belfast.

It's the latest development in plans to open two new bars in the city and comes after the group's chairman warned that issues with planning and licensing were delaying the projects, which he had hoped would be up and running by now.

The Royal Avenue hostelry will be the first bar in recent times to front on to Belfast's best known shopping street. The next closest, The Hudson, sits just off it on Gresham Street.

Wetherspoon's chairman Tim Martin has connections to Northern Ireland - his parents were from here and his brothers were born here.

He was educated at Campbell College, but later moved to England.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said: "Getting both planning and licensing for two new pubs is inevitably a slow and painstaking process but I'm confident it will be worth the wait.

"Our plans involve a major investment in disused buildings, a significant number of jobs and attractive modern venues for Belfast."

Mr Martin had previously warned that restrictions on the number of licences in Northern Ireland was holding back would-be entrepreneurs from entering the industry.

He said that more pubs could benefit cities and towns such as Londonderry and Omagh.

JD Wetherspoon bought the former JJB Sports store - which closed after the company went into administration - around two years ago.

There are also plans to convert a former church near Queen's University into a second branch.

JD Wetherspoon paid around £1.2m for a lavish and historic former Methodist church in south Belfast.

It's expected that around 100 jobs could be created as a result of the newest pubs in the UK-wide chain's portfolio.

Last year the business sold five of its nine bars here to the home-grown Granny Annie's Group, leaving it with four bars in Belfast, Carrickfergus, Newtownards and Lisburn.

The chain opened its first outlet in the Republic - The Three Tun Tavern - in 2014.

It already operates more than 900 pubs across the UK and has further plans to expand in the Republic.

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