Belfast Telegraph

Morrisons gets makeover and Benedicts' owners snap up Lansdowne Hotel

By Margaret Canning

Belfast pub Morrisons, a stalwart of the city's nightlife for about 20 years, is being renamed and relaunched, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The Bedford Street venue is being renamed and reopened in August as Pug Uglys by new management, which includes well-known Belfast publican Mark Beirne. And it's believed the Pug Uglys brand may also be rolled out to other pub locations.

The pub, an occasional haunt for staff at nearby BBC Broadcasting House, is being leased out by its owner, Carmichael Group. They have operated it as Morrisons since 2002. Director Keith Carmichael said he wished to concentrate on the group's hotel, the Rosspark in Ballymena.

"We've just spent £0.5m adding a new wedding pavilion to the Rosspark so the time has come to concentrate on it."

However, he said he believed that the area where the former Morrisons is located, marketed as the Linen Quarter, would grow in popularity with tourists and night-time revellers. Two new hotels - the Grand Central and Maldron - have already started trading in the area, while the George Best Hotel is due to open in December. And the area will also benefit from BBC NI's decision to stay put and renovate the historic Broadcasting House, just across the road from Morrisons on Ormeau Avenue, instead of moving to new premises.

Mr Carmichael said: "With so much going on in the Linen Quarter, we wanted to hold on to Morrisons but we have decided to lease it out to Mark. Mark is a proven operator with plenty of ideas."

It's understood Mr Beirne has been involved in the venue since February. He was not available for comment. He has been linked to other Belfast venues including Maverick on Donegall Street, The Albany on the city's Lisburn Road, and Filthy McNasty's on Dublin Road. Earlier this year, Mr Beirne also announced his plans to revamp a derelict building next to McCrackens pub in the city centre.

The old building in Joy's Entry is being renovated and renamed 'Henry's' and 'The Jailhouse' by Mr Beirne, in partnership with Jim Conlon.

Meanwhile, the Lansdowne Hotel in north Belfast has been sold. And the Belfast Telegraph can reveal that the venue has been bought by Edmund and Patrick Simpson, who are already the owners of Shaftesbury Square hotel Benedicts. The Irish News reported the sale of the hotel for £1.25m yesterday. The hotel was shut two months ago by former owners Metro Inns.

Colin Neill, chief executive of industry group Hospitality Ulster, welcomed news of the sale.

"It's great to see it's been bought over. We want to attract tourism beyond the city centre - but we also want places to service the community for family occasions."

The Simpsons were not available for comment.

Belfast Telegraph

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