Belfast Telegraph

Belfast's Botanic Inn, King's Head and Madison's sold to separate buyers for more than £5m

By Margaret Canning

Three Belfast pubs which previously traded as part of Botanic Inns will be sold to separate buyers in deals worth more than £5m, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Popular student and sports pub the Botanic Inn on south Belfast's Malone Road is to be sold to the Mooney Hotel Group - owners of the neighbouring Wellington Park Hotel - for £2.5m, while the King's Head on the Lisburn Road has been snapped up by Wine Inns for £2.2m.

And it's understood property developer Shamus Jennings is to pay £1.75m for Madison's Hotel on Botanic Avenue.

The prospective new owners could not be reached for comment.

Botanic Inns had been a leading pub and hotel operator in Northern Ireland with up to 16 properties until struggles over high rents and spiralling debts to Ulster Bank led to the group's failure and entry into administration in 2013.

Mooney Hotel Group's purchase of the venue known as 'the Bot' returns it to the family's ownership after around 20 years.

Competitive bidding had taken place over all three properties - and Alan Reid, owner of high-end Belfast restaurant Shu, also on the Lisburn Road, confirmed that he had made a failed bid for the King's Head.

It's understood contracts for the three transactions have been exchanged but the deals are not due to be completed until the beginning of next month.

One pub trade insider, who did not wish to be named, said all three price tags were in line with market expectations. And he said it was a positive development that the pubs would remain in local hands.

He added: "It's great that all three pubs have gone to local operators rather than to operators from Dublin or Great Britain."

Former Botanic Inns director Jas Mooney - the man credited with building it into a major success - is a nephew of Felix Mooney, head of the Mooney Hotel Group.

The three pubs were put on sale by a receiver Tom Keenan of Keeman Corporate Finance, appointed by the Republic's bad bank Nama.

The freehold of the pubs had been held by two property developers in the Republic whose loans were absorbed by Nama.

Commercial property agents Lambert Smith Hampton were appointed to sell the properties but refused to comment on the progress of the sales. No one was available for comment from Keenan Corporate Finance either.

Wine Inns also owns the Empire and Alibi among other venues.

Mooney Hotel Group operates the Dunadry and Armagh City Hotels.

Belfast Telegraph