Belfast Telegraph

£4m injection for Belfast and Bangor hotels and pubs from Northern Whig and Madison's to Ava Bar

Refurbishment plans could herald hospitality revival

By Rachel Martin and Joanne Sweeney

A surge of activity in the hospitality trade in Belfast and Bangor - with investments of around £4m - could signal a rebirth in the sector, it's been claimed.

Two top venues in Belfast - the Northern Whig in the Cathedral Quarter and Madison's Hotel in Botanic Avenue - are getting major revamps under new owners.

And Bangor venue the Ava Bar and restaurant has been sold to Andrew and Johnny Gedge, who also run three other pubs.

The Ava had been owned by the Hillen family for over 80 years.  

The Gedge brothers — who also run the Frisky Bear in Holywood as well as the Goat’s Toe and the Hop House in Bangor — will be closing their existing restaurant the Corin, also on High Street, and moving it into the Ava. 

The Gedges say they plan to spend £350,000 on revamping the Ava — bringing the total investment on the site to well over £1m.

The Corin will be adapted to return as a more casual venue called Corin’s Kitchen upstairs in the Ava complex in July.

The Gedge brothers employ around 150 staff and said that the jobs of 15 staff at the Ava were safe. 

Andrew Gedge said he hoped to double the workforce at the Ava as the business grows. He said: “We will be able to increase our volume up to 80 tables. Before, we weren’t able to turn tables properly as the Corin was too small.  We were booked out every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night and couldn’t take on any more customers whereas the Ava is much bigger.

“When you’ve the same family running things for so long, things are done in the same way so we will be putting a new set of eyes on it.”

The Northern Whig in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter is also receiving a £300,000 facelift from owners Horatio Group. 

Horatio Group is now outright owner of the property after running it on behalf of the Republic’s bad bank, Nama. 

It acquired the venue for around £1.7m.  Lorraine Ormsby, finance director of the Horatio Group, added: “This is our single biggest investment in a property, and one which we’re confident will cement the Northern Whig’s reputation as a premier venue in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.”

Both Northern Whig and Madison’s were part of former pub empire Botanic Inns before it went into administration.

Now former Botanic Inns manager Michael Stewart is back at the helm of Madison’s after it was bought by developer Shamus Jennings for a reported £1.75m.

“Everything is going to change about Madison’s, including possibly the name. This is a major investment from top to bottom. The bedrooms will be completely overhauled as well as the club and the restaurant,” he said.

“There will be a new brand which will aspire to an older age group and a different style of customer base. It will be a total sea change.”

Belfast Telegraph