Belfast Telegraph

Last orders for historic restaurant and bar The Planters

By Margaret Canning

A well-known Co Armagh restaurant with a history going back to the 18th century is shutting as its owners say it is no longer economically viable.

The Planters in Waringstown has been at the centre of village life - a location for birthdays, weddings and anniversaries - in its present location for at least 40 years.

It is thought it operated in its earliest incarnation as a coaching house a short distance away from its present site as far back as 1700.

It was named after The Planters House, a thatched roof cottage just outside the village pre-dating 1700.

But now owners Darren and Paula Gilbert have said it's no longer viable to keep it open. They have been running the business for 12 years.

Mr Gilbert told the Belfast Telegraph they will instead consolidate operations at the Seagoe Hotel in Portadown, which they also own.

The kitchen will prepare its last meal on Sunday, while the bar will be wound down over the next few months.

Mr Gilbert said: "We have serviced the Waringstown population for a long, long time and appreciate their support.

"But the rise in business costs puts far too much pressure on business and it's just not feasible any more."

However, he said the 20 staff ­- most of whom are part-time - will move to the Seagoe.

"Nobody is going to lose their jobs," added Mr Gilbert.

And he said that any gift vouchers for the restaurant at The Planters - or future bookings for the venue - will be honoured at the Seagoe.

"We intend to carry out the same operation at the Seagoe," he explained.

Mr Gilbert added that he hoped a function would be found for the building which would mean it was still used by people in Waringstown.

He said the couple now hoped to expand their operations at the Seagoe.

DUP councillor Mark Baxter, who lives in the neighbouring village of Donacloney, said The Planters would be sorely missed.

"The restaurant has always done a roaring trade and has had a very good reputation," he said.

"Everybody's in shock and it's a big, big loss for the area.

"Everyone in the village will miss it."

A Waringstown resident, who did not wish to be named, said the restaurant was frequently packed out.

It's understood attempts were made to attract more people to the pub by bussing people in from outside the Waringstown area.

Colin Neill, chief executive of trade body Hospitality Ulster, said the pub trade was getting tougher for many of its operators.

He said costs were increasing for owners, with rises in the minimum wage for staff, as well as business rates.

In addition, would-be pub-goers were also facing rising costs, with inflation pushing up the prices of everyday items.

"The trade is tough and it's hard to get people into," said Mr Neill.

"Tourism is about the only growth area for the hospitality industry as people who live here can only spend so much on drinking and eating out.

"It's been a tough first quarter of the year for everyone.

"I think the pub trade is a challenge.

"It's a tough living - yes, you do make a living, but you'll never get rich in the pub trade."

Belfast Telegraph

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