Belfast Telegraph

Botanic Inns sale: Four bids on table for entire portfolio of failed Belfast pub chain

Exclusive By Margaret Canning

Four bids have been under consideration for a group of pubs including Belfast city centre's Apartment and McHugh's.

The venues, along with Denvir's Hotel in Downpatrick and Molly Brown's in Newtownards – as well as The Parador, the Kitchen Bar and Ryan's, all in Belfast – were part of Kurkova Ltd, a company in the Botanic Inns group.

The pubs were put on the market earlier this year after Kurkova and subsidiary Botanic Inns Ltd went into administration.

Offers for the Kurkova portfolio or individuals, with a total guide price of £4.675m, were to be sent to commercial property agents Osborne King by September 13. It's believed four offers for the entire portfolio are being considered after bids for individual pubs or a combination were eliminated.

John Martin, a director at Osborne King, refused to comment. But a spokesman for Horatio Group confirmed that it had made an offer which they had now been informed had not been successful. The group is led by Stephen Magorrian, former managing director of the Botanic Inns Group.

And Philip Patterson, operations director at Fortuna Inns, confirmed that it too had made an offer but said he had not yet been told if it had been successful.

Recently-emerged Fortuna Group owns Gowdy's at the Racecourse outside Lisburn and the Riverhouse in the city.

Colin Neill, chief executive of licensed trade lobby group Pubs of Ulster, welcomed news of the offers. "It was a blow for the industry when Kurkova went into administration," he said.

"However the pubs it owned are premium pubs, and it is encouraging to hear that offers have been made and these pubs will once again be invested in and jobs will continue.

"Although trading is tough for many pub owners, we are encouraged by recent statistics from Neilsen that show things are starting to move in the right direction with a growth of 3% in the number of pubs trading this year. Pubs are re-opening and investment is being made.

"It is important to remember the pub industry is a key economic driver and its health and vitality are crucial in the sustainability of our economy as a whole."

One of the two remaining bids is thought to have been from Tennent's NI, which had a plan to run the pubs with Bill Wolsey.

Mr Wolsey, the managing director of Beannchor Group, which owns the Merchant Hotel and up to 50 pubs in Belfast and Co Down, would not comment.

Belfast Telegraph