Belfast looks set to get a major beer bar as a brewery owner opens a new spot close to CS Lewis Square as part of an overall £500,000 investment, it can be revealed.
Bullhouse Brewery owner Willy Mayne will open the doors to Pioneer on the Newtownards Road this autumn, creating around six new jobs.
It is set to boast a new fully-licensed beer bar, focused around the local community, and will include a beer garden which looks on to CS Lewis Square.
Pioneer will include 16-20 independent beer taps — including many from its own brewery — and is set to open its doors ahead of Christmas.
And according to Willy, the beer selection will be among the biggest in Northern Ireland.
He is also expanding his brewery at the Boucher Road in the south of the city, and building a new brewhouse which will be ready by February 2022.
And he says it is the first new bar licence to be granted in the area for several years.
“The plan is that it will be a neighbourhood and community focused bar, with no late licence, serving bar snacks and food in the long-term,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
“We will have a beer garden onto CS Lewis Square, which is sort of the final piece of the puzzle in that area.
“East Belfast in general is lacking in good quality evening economy. There are plenty of restaurants but a lack of bars.”
The new spot will initially open its doors to the public on Wednesday to Sunday from around lunchtime to 11pm. “We will be working with the community and be involved as much as possible,” he said.
He says that could include home-brew and kombucha making classes, beer yoga, and a long-term plan to create a cycling club.
“It’ll be authentic. A lot of bars in Belfast are selling the experience, rather than the product,” he says. “We are going to be focusing on the products to drive the experience.”
Pioneer will also be able to sell beer to take away, and Willy says he plans to source beer directly from the rest of the UK and elsewhere in Europe — boasting one of the biggest selections in Northern Ireland.
“Ideally we will need about six staff, and that will be both full-time and part-time,” he said.
“We don’t have any intention of opening later (than 11pm).
“We see ourselves as being an attractive place to work for staff. We are hoping to be open in late autumn, before Christmas.”
The new spot will sit close to Boundary Brewing, which operates weekend taprooms from its Portview Trade Centre site.
Willy says he is hoping the new addition will create a “hub of beer” in the area over the long-term, and bring more visitors into the area.
Bullhouse Brewery has hosted weekend taproom events at its Boucher Road brewery site.
A once entirely industrial unit, Willy’s new site now ticks a lot of the craft beer boxes, with shiny fermenters and conditioning tanks adorning one side, six-person tables and benches, a decent food stand, and a bar gleaming with stainless steel taps and white subway tiles.
Meanwhile, last month major new changes were brought in regarding alcohol licensing here.
That included a new category of licence created for local producers of craft beers, ciders and spirits, and cinemas will be able to apply for a liquor licence and serve drink to customers watching a movie.
The new laws will also modernise pubs, allowing them to open until 3am as well as introducing new opening hours over Easter.
The Bill will mean that larger pubs and hotels can apply to open until 2am up to 104 nights a year, while smaller pubs will be able to open to 1am up to 104 nights a year.