Belfast Telegraph

Belfast bar plans £350k makeover with retractable roof

Petra Wolsey, group marketing director for Beannchor, and Conall Wolsey, Beannchor director, with plans for the National's renovation
Petra Wolsey, group marketing director for Beannchor, and Conall Wolsey, Beannchor director, with plans for the National's renovation
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Merchant Hotel parent company Beannchor has announced a £350,000 investment including an outdoor retractable roof at its Belfast city centre bar, The National.

The High Street bar, which also serves food, was first opened in 2013 after a restoration of the derelict National Bank Building.

Beannchor, which was established by entrepreneur Bill Wolsey, first made its mark on Belfast city centre in 2005, when it opened the luxury Merchant Hotel in a former Ulster Bank premises on Skipper Street in the Cathedral Quarter.

Since then it's built up the business to include a number of pubs, a chain of pizza restaurants and a second city centre hotel, Bullitt. Last year it also announced plans for a new hotel in Lisburn.

Now The National is to receive a major renovation with a redecoration inside and the addition of a retractable roof and heating system for its outside space, National Garden. The company said it would also overhaul the food and drink offering, with a focus on breakfast and lunch trade, high-end coffee, cocktails and craft beers.

Upstairs, its cocktail bar and club, sixty6 will become Upstairs at The National, with a revised programme of DJ-led entertainment at the weekends.

Conall Wolsey, director of the Beannchor Group, said: "Continued innovation and investment is crucial in our industry, to keep up with changing consumer trends and demands.

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"We've listened to our customers and the evolution of The National will reposition the venue and its offering in line with what our people are asking for," he added.

And he said the business would put its "genuine social conscience" at the centre of the project.

"In line with the wider Beannchor Group's commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, sustainability is a core focus.

"Our ambition is to achieve zero food waste at The National and we are working on a range of policies and initiatives to help us reach this goal."

The Beannchor Group has now completed a multi-million pound expansion of Bullitt Belfast and expanded its Little Wing pizza chain to eight premises.

Beannchor has an annual turnover of around £20m and directly employs 750 staff.

Renovation work begins this week, with the venue set to reopen to the public in mid-February.

Bill Wolsey was named the 2018 Industry EY Entrepreneur Of The Year in business advisory firm EY's all-island competition. And in November, he was named Personality of the Year in the Belfast Telegraph Property Awards.

He used his acceptance speech to urge politicians to back the draft Withdrawal Agreement on Brexit, saying: "What an opportunity we have for business and when business is strong, that makes the community strong and it's good for all."

Belfast Telegraph