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Belfast pub chain boosts turnover by nearly £1m against all odds


Wine Inns' pub Cutters Wharf in south Belfast

Wine Inns' pub Cutters Wharf in south Belfast

Wine Inns' pub Cutters Wharf in south Belfast

Company accounts for the biggest hospitality groups here have revealed an increase in off-licence turnover of 14% to £24.7m in 2020, while its pub and restaurant arm increased sales by £1m despite forced closures over lockdown.

Golf Holdings, best-known for Wine Inns and off-licence brand Winemark, bucked the trend in the sector and upped its figures during what has been one of the most testing times for hospitality firms.

Wine Inns owns venues including south Belfast’s Chelsea Wine Bar while Winemark is a chain of 84 off-licences around the province.  The group also includes wholesale wine company James E McCabe.

Wine Inns saw its sales rise by 7% to £13.4m during 2020 from 2019’s £12.5m.

That element of the business, which also includes The Doyen, Four Winds and Cutters Wharf, also saw its pre-tax profits rise in 2020, from £709,000 in 2019 to £752,000.

The increase comes despite the bulk of its establishments’ forced closures during the financial year up until December 31, 2020, due to Covid-19.

Economist John Simpson said the results signal “something very clever” adding: “Whatever they did, it managed to beat the market and my impression is that the drinks trade has by and large managed to fight the pandemic. All credit to Wine Inns.

"They’re not the only company to do well, but you must give them credit for the positive achievement for their turnover and profitability. All we heard from hospitality were complaints and losses and this is an example for which this is an exception.”

Wine Inns participated in the Eat Out to Help Out (EOHO) scheme held in 2020 which saw the Government subsidise 50% of the cost of meals.

The bulk of Wine Inns’ establishments are in south Belfast, which official Government's statistics said recorded a relatively high level of meals per outlet during the scheme.

EOHO supported the hospitality sector throughout August 2020 by providing consumers with a discount of up to 50% on food and drink items consumed at participating outlets.

In Northern Ireland 4.5m meals were claimed for, amounting to a claim of almost £26m among NI venues.

Meanwhile Golf Holdings’ Winemark the Winemerchants Ltd enjoyed an even better performance for the same financial year.

Its turnover jumped from £21.6m in 2019 to £24.7m in 2020 — a rise of over 14% — while the off sales company’s pre-tax profits increased from £1.3m to £1.7m.

But both arms of the business lost staff during the year. Wine Inns saw its headcount drop from 134 to 115 while Winemark’s staff dropped from 253 to 222.