Belfast Telegraph

Wetherspoon creates 100 jobs with new Belfast bars

Exclusive: Pub chain giant JD Wetherspoon is to create up to 100 jobs as it invests as much as £4m in two new Belfast bars.

By John Mulgrew

Pub chain giant JD Wetherspoon is to create up to 100 jobs as it invests as much as £4m in two new Belfast bars.

That includes one at the former JJB Sports store on Royal Avenue, and a former Methodist church close to Queen's University.

Founder and chairman Tim Martin said the success of the new pubs could lead to further expansion of its business throughout Northern Ireland.

JD Wetherspoon currently operates nine bars across Northern Ireland, with just one -­ The Bridge House - in Belfast city centre.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, chairman Tim Martin, who grew up in Northern Ireland, said plans were now progressing well.

"It's early days for the new pubs and we have to go through the planning and application process," he said.

"It's been very successful so far - and I'm hoping for between £3m to £4m being invested between the two outlets, creating 100 jobs.

"I believe people will think it'll help improve the scene in the city."

He said the new bars could be open for business within six months to a year.

And as for resistance from already well-established independent bars in both areas, Mr Martin said: "There may be some resistance, but quite often when a Wetherspoon opens, other pubs in the area do well."

In October, the Belfast Telegraph revealed a former Methodist church on University Road close to Queen's University was set to be transformed into one of the pub company's new outlets.

The red brick church survived the bombs of both the Blitz and the Troubles, but dwindling congregation numbers led to its demise.

It's understood the church was bought for around £1.2m.

The second new bar - located at the top of Belfast's main shopping thoroughfare - will take over the former JJB Sports store, which closed after the company entered administration in 2012.

Tim Martin said although it was 'early days' for the new ventures there is "no reason why we couldn't open half a dozen more"'.

"It's all about how well things go at the moment - there's no reason why we couldn't open half a dozen more. It's early days yet and we have to see how the next two go," he said.

In the Republic, the chain has also completed the purchase of the Camden Hall Hostel in Dublin. The company wants to open a pub and a 100-room hotel on the site, creating 75 jobs in the process.

Just a couple of years ago, the pub group's chairman said Wetherspoon had no plans to further expand in Northern Ireland or in the Republic.

But the latest movement from the company has shown a definite change of heart for the firm, with ambitious plans for around 30 bars in the Republic.

JD Wetherspoon opened its first pub in the Republic - The Three Tun Tavern -earlier this year. It already operates more than 900 pubs across the UK.

In March, it was reported the company witnessed a pre-tax profits rise of 3.2% in the first half of its financial year to £36m. Earlier this month, the firm squared up to Heineken in a £60m dispute which saw the pub chain ban the brewer's products.

Belfast Telegraph