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Made in Belfast restaurant owner who vowed to quit city over business laws is still here 12 months later


Emma Bricknell

Emma Bricknell

One of Emma's Made In Belfast eateries

One of Emma's Made In Belfast eateries


Emma Bricknell

It is a year on and one of Northern Ireland's most outspoken restaurant owners is still here.

But 12 months after Made in Belfast and Strip Joint owner Emma Bricknell blasted the region's business and political environment, the Englishwoman insisted she would "leave tomorrow" if she could.

The businesswoman previously claimed she would quit here and move to Ibiza to do business, but she now admits she is considering England instead.

Asked why she had not sold up shop or ceded control of her three Belfast restaurants, she told this paper that it was not an easy process.

"I don't know - I would like to go back to Ibiza," Ms Bricknell said. "I want to make sure we do it the right way.

"I employ 90 people and have respect for them, the community and people. People like our restaurants. There are a lot of new restaurants opening, but not everyone likes them."

While Ms Bricknell said she had done financially well" here, she admitted she was still looking for ways to move on.

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"I have good managers and staff and [would] possibly give them the reins," she added.

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Criticising everything from high rates to Sunday opening hours and Easter licensing laws, the entrepreneur said many of Northern Ireland's politicians were "not from business backgrounds" and did not understand how companies worked.

Ms Bricknell, who is originally from Kent, settled in Belfast after picking out city names from a hat. In 2005, she opened Made in Belfast in Wellington Street, gaining a reputation for eclectic decor and quirky takes on familiar dishes.

She then opened a second Made in Belfast restaurant in the Cathedral Quarter, along with steakhouse Strip Joint.

"For me, yeah, I'm still there, but it hasn't changed," she said. "I'm done with business here and I'm looking at Margate or Whitstable. I don't want to be in Northern Ireland any longer. That little bit of water makes a big difference."

Ms Bricknell blasted Belfast and Northern Ireland's licensing laws for both restaurants and bars, as well as high rates and difficulties in doing business.

"I'd go tomorrow if I could -the sooner the better," she said, adding that she was "burnt out" and "tired" of Northern Ireland.

However, the businesswoman also praised the efforts of some politicians, including Sinn Fein MLA and former Mayor of Belfast Mairtin O Muilleoir and the Alliance Party.

But she claimed "not enough" was being done to attract big businesses and big names to the region.

She also said a lack of air links to locations in Europe and further afield was holding Northern Ireland back.

Previously, Ms Bricknell spoke of her opposition to the conscience clause, a bid by DUP MLA Paul Givan to give businesses the option of refusing to provide services to individuals if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.