Belfast Telegraph

Big plans revealed for Belfast's Rotterdam and Pat's Bar sites

Sailortown venue: Rotterdam Bar in Pilot Street backs on to Pat’s Bar
Sailortown venue: Rotterdam Bar in Pilot Street backs on to Pat’s Bar
Sailortown venue: Rotterdam Bar in Pilot Street backs on to Pat’s Bar
Emma Deighan

By Emma Deighan

Plans are afoot to breathe new life into the site that was formerly the home of two famous bars in Belfast's Sailortown.

Planning consultants O'Toole and Starkey will showcase a large-scale development for Pilot Street and Princes Dock Street where the now derelict Rotterdam Bar and Pat's Bar are located.

According to a public notice in the Belfast Telegraph, there are plans to demolish the existing buildings to make way for a "mixed-use development comprising apartments, a restaurant, a retail unit and bar/cafe".

The plans will be unveiled on April 10 at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) at 9-11 Corporation Square between 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

They will also include proposals to revamp the public space, Barrow Square, next to the bars, which was formerly the social heart of the area which was established in the mid-1800s.

The Rotterdam Bar on Pilot Street which sits back-to-back with Pat's Bar was a hotbed for alternative musical talent in Belfast and beyond.

It is believed to be one of the oldest bars in the city and first started trading in the late 1800s.

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Chris Roddy took ownership of the bar in November 1984 after it was destroyed by a fire, and, prior to that, two bombs.

He said: "We basically bought a shed back then and built it from the dust upwards. Both the Rotterdam and Pat's Bar had a life of their own and no matter what the plans, that life will continue.

"It would be great to see them reopen but things move on."

Mr Roddy reminisced about famous punters who visited the pub over the years including actress Julie Christie who he said ordered a pint of Guinness and a Black Bush.

He said that the Rotterdam had also acted as a holding cell for prisoners before they set sail for Australia long before it was a pub. "Whenever I bought the pub it still had the clamps for pinning the prisoners up," he added.

Nigel Martin worked in the Rotterdam from the 1980s until it closed. He was the former sound engineer and eventually moved into the office to work as a booker.

He said: "The Rotterdam was the place to go for anything that wasn't mainstream. A lot of world music came through there in the 1980s and 90s. We had bands from Sicily, New Orleans, France - all kinds of people.

"We had lots of locals and people who latched on to live music and collected records. There was never any instances of cover bands playing there. It was nearly all original material of a genre that was not widely played."

Mr Martin said a "melting pot" of customers would frequent the pub during the Troubles, including "I would say, people associated with paramilitaries with members of the RUC popping in, possibly sitting around the same table. That's not common knowledge and among the few anecdotal tales you might not have heard."

One of the most interesting aspects of the Rotterdam is its quirky and cosy interior.

Mr Martin said: "There wasn't a right angle in the building and that was one of the most charming things about it."

The new plans are not the first earmarked for Sailortown. There have been various proposals to redevelop the bars over the years, including a building housing 112 apartments, two restaurants and a gym but nothing has come to fruition as yet.

Belfast Telegraph