Belfast Telegraph

Harry's Bar in Banbridge snapped up by former owners of The Coach nightclub

By Margaret Canning

A well-known pub in Banbridge has been sold – to the former owners of the town's landmark nightclub The Coach, which itself remains on the market.

The keys of Harry's Bar in the Co Down town have now been handed over to the Scullion brothers, Myles and Brian.

That means that the chain built up by the Quinn family in the town has been broken up.

The Quinns put The Coach on the market last year through agents Osborne King with a guide price of £975,000 – along with their other assets, Harry's at £475,000 and the £1.5m-priced Iveagh Movie Studios cinema. They are still running a third pub in the town, AJ Quinn & Sons.

The front bar at the Coach is still open for business – though its famed nightclub has been shut since the start of this month after a long history of drawing in crowds from as far away as Newry, Armagh and Belfast.

A notice placed on the nightclub's website last month said it had been sold – but it's understood no sale took place.

Myles Scullion said the nightclub had not been of interest to them as a possible acquisition.

They are operating Harry's Bar as tenants, after the freehold was bought by unidentified investors, who also acquired the freehold of former Botanic Inns bars The Parador and Ryan's last year.

Mr Scullion said: "Harry's Bar is probably the best bar in Banbridge.

"We are originally from Banbridge, and knew the former owners. t has a good food trade. We intend to do a few renovations and bits and pieces to increase the business."

His business had enjoyed a good December. "It was a very good December, for the first time in three or four years, and maybe people now have a bit more money to spend.

"But if you have the right place serving the right food and the right entertainment, and what you are offering overall is good, a pub should do well."

The brothers also operate the Halfway House near Banbridge and the well-known Seagoe Hotel in Portadown, Co Armagh.

Upturn in pub trade is just the beginning, writes Colin Neil - CEO of Pubs of Ulster

Last year showed very positive signs for the economy and, while this did not translate into cash in real terms for pub owners, we hope that the continuation of these trends will be good for the pub trade in 2014.

There is a feeling that the pub industry – in line with other sectors – has turned a corner over the past 12 months, but this doesn't mean it hasn't been a tough year for many licensees.

In spite of the Cathedral Quarter bomb in December, Christmas trade was reasonably good. Belfast had an increase in activity from as early as September.

Other areas, like Londonderry, were slower to pick up, but did so from the end of November and performed well through Christmas. This upturn did require a lot of investment from pubs, such as additional entertainment.

We look forward to the swift progression of the Licensing of the Pavement Cafes Bill through the Assembly and the reform of liquor licensing. Whilst we recognise the need for appropriate regulation, we also need to be able to move with the times to compete as an international tourist destination by making the pub more appealing than a night in.

Pubs of Ulster are encouraged by all of the above but are also keen to demonstrate what the great Ulster pub can offer.

Belfast Telegraph