Belfast Telegraph

Derelict Northern Ireland bar to become a church


By Emma Deighan

A Co Antrim pub is to replace bar stools with bibles in a 'pint to pews' transformation that's bucking the trend for the popular church to bar revamp.

The former Rose and Crown pub on the Albert Road and Queen Street in Carrickfergus should begin its transformation in September, if planning permission is obtained.

The bar, which closed over 10 years ago, was sold in 2015 to the church for an undisclosed figure.

Thomas Reid, a deacon at Carrickfergus Congregational Church and part of the team behind the scheme, said the purchase price was not in the region of the original £300k asking price during the property boom.

He said that the church had a modest budget.

"We are not a rich church. The first phase would possibly take one year or 18 months to complete.

"The second and third phases would happen over a six or seven-year period and that timeline is purely down to financial costs, so we are exploring different avenues in terms of funding," he added.

Belfast-based architect Hall, Black and Douglas has come up with designs for what Mr Reid describes as a social hub for the community.

The property extends to around 2,477 sq ft over two floors. Inside, there is a ground floor public bar, keg room and two stores, together with a first-floor three-bedroom flat.

The plans are to convert the bar into a cafe while the space upstairs will be used as meeting rooms.

Mr Reid said: "Part of the existing pub will be knocked down to give way to an enclosed courtyard.

"The building that will be left will have two storeys; the ground floor which will be used as a cafe for different ministries in the church and the first floor which will offer rooms for church activity."

He is confident that plans will be approved given the project's objectives of deterring antisocial behaviour and providing a space for all generations.

"We are trying to reach out to the community and hope to appeal to older and younger people.

"We want to make it a place that will help get people off the streets," Mr Reid said.

"That area is probably like a lot of places with a bit of an anti-social aspect to it. But the other aspect is the pub in its current state is an absolute eyesore and I can't see anyone objecting to this redevelopment as it will only add to the town."

Mr Reid added that the Rose and Crown had operated as a pub for over 90 years and pulled its last pint over 10 years ago.

In recent years, many churches have been purchased and transformed into hospitality establishments.

The Ulsterville Presbyterian Church on the Lisburn Road was converted into restaurant Saphyre and Kris Turnbull studios, which is an interior designers.

The 'pews to pint' trend is something that was led by JD Wetherspoon throughout the UK.

In 2014, the company purchased a former Methodist church in the university area of Belfast for an estimated £1.2m.

The project has faced significant difficulties and delays due to its listed building status.

Company chairman Tim Martin told the Belfast Telegraph last year that delays were likely.

He said: "It can take a long time, but there's no alternative but to comply."

Elsewhere, hospitality group Tullymore House confirmed plans to transform Holy Rosary Church on the Ormeau Road through a £1m investment.

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.