Belfast Telegraph

£1.4m development brings back style of the Roaring '20s

By Margaret Canning

A landmark bar and restaurant in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter has been transformed in a £1.4m investment by an unnamed property developer.

21 Social started trading last month on the site of The Potthouse, a venue which opened to great acclaim five years ago only to close around three years later.

It is understood a developer - who does not want to be named - wanted to invest in a new venture after the failure of the property market. Now the former Potthouse has been changed beyond recognition, from its name and branding to the fixtures and fittings.

General manager Colin Brown - a former manager at Cafe Vaudeville - said 21 Social was also drawing a different crowd.

"The Potthouse always had a young crowd which I always thought would have been more at home in a venue in the Odyssey. We are attracting an older, professional 25-plus crowd."

He said the sumptuous decor of 21 Social also reflected the money which had been spent on the refit - Art Deco-style booths and tiles costing £600 per square metre are two features.

"I think with the proximity to the Merchant Hotel, you do need to go the extra mile," he said.

The ground floor is a 65-seater restaurant to keep the crowd coming through the doors during the week, the middle floor a bar with DJ which opens on a Friday and Saturday night, and the top floor will be Cigarette Girl, a members' club costing £250 per year to join, although it hasn't opened yet.

As for that interesting name: "Everyone thinks '21' refers to the age you have to be to get in, but it's a reference to the 21st amendment, which made it legal to drink in the US after the end of Prohibition. I wanted to call it the Linen Rooms, to reflect the linen heritage of Belfast and also the proximity to Cotton Court and the Cloth Ear, but when we hired Frank Design and they came up with 21 Social.

"We want a 1920s, speakeasy feel to the place, and 21 Social summed that up well. Cigarette girls were a feature of speakeasys, so that's how the members' club got its name."