Belfast Telegraph

Botanic Inns: The Fly gets new owner

By Margaret Canning

South Belfast pub and nightclub The Fly has been sold by Nama-appointed receivers in one of the latest disposals of the now scattered Botanic Inns empire.

Fortuna Inns, which is based in east Belfast, is thought to have paid close to the £800,000 asking price for the Botanic Avenue venue.

The group's operations director Philip Patterson said it was not in a position to comment on the acquisition, which is expected to be finalised over the next few weeks.

The Lower Crescent pub has long been a student favourite and one of the city's best known names.

Licensed trade adviser, John Morgan of Panther Purchasing, said: "It's a good purchase in the heart of studentland, and it has a good name.

"It will be interesting to see what someone will do to take it forward – and the purchase represents good investment in the sector.

"However, the Fly itself does need some investment in it, but hopefully the new owners will give it a new lease of life."

No-one from commercial property agents Whelan, which dealt with the sale, was available for comment.

Staff from Fortuna Inns have been running The Fly on behalf of receivers since the beginning of the year, when former tenant the Horatio Group surrendered its keys after a disagreement over lease terms.

It's understood the owners of the freehold of the Fly were a husband and wife team of property developers living in the Republic whose business interests were lost in the downturn.

Because their purchase of the building had been financed with loans from an Irish-based bank, Nama absorbed their loans, making it the ultimate landlord of the building.

Accountants RSM McClure Watters had been appointed by Nama as fixed charge receiver two years ago.

However, no-one from RSM McClure Watters was available for comment last night.

Nama also said it had no comment to make on the transaction.

It's understood an associate of the Stiff Kitten – which is set to close following a disagreement with its landlord – also considered bidding for the pub but withdrew from the process.

The Botanic Inns group, which went into administration last year, also included Kurkova, a company which held seven pubs.

The Downey brothers from Co Londonderry bought the seven for £4.3m last year – though four of them were immediately 'flipped' and sold on to two new owners.

Horatio Group has been running six other Botanic Inns pubs – The Northern Whig, Madisons, The King's Head, The Elms, The Fly and the Botanic Inn – after reaching an agreement with Nama.

The Elms pub has been sold to supermarket giant Tesco for more than £1m.

Horatio Group was established last year by Stephen Magorrian, the former managing director of Botanic Inns.

Nama confirmed the sale of its portfolio of loans held by Northern Ireland-based debtors to US investment firm Cerebus for an estimated £1bn in April this year.

Belfast Telegraph