RubyBlue distillery owners take over landmark pub and restaurant in Moira
The owners of a distillery have taken over the Four Trees bar and restaurant in Moira creating 15 jobs in a £200,000 investment.
Stuart and Barbara Hughes of Hughes Craft Distillery, which makes the RubyBlue brand of liqueurs and vodka, will rename the venue The StillHouse.
Supported by Ulster Bank, the takeover will see the couple transfer their business to the site and create a visitor centre and 'gin school' to allow customers to make and bottle their own miniature RubyBlue products, including its potato vodka, the first of its kind in Ireland.
The distillery will relocate from Lisburn to the coachhouse stone building at the back of the premises in January.
Mrs Hughes said: "Having outgrown our current premises, we wanted to find a setting to really showcase our craft. Moira was an obvious choice, for both its picturesque setting and ideal location for distribution links."
She said recent interest from cruise lines for distillery tours prompted the company to diversify into tourism.
"Moira is one of the UK's biggest food destinations and this venue allows us to offer the typical Irish pub experience, from local food to drink. It also has an off-licence on site, which means we can sell RubyBlue," she added.
"With the creation of our visitor centre, gin school and gastropub we're creating a true food tourism hotspot to showcase the best local produce complemented with our small batch spirits. We're very grateful for Ulster Bank's support, which has enabled us to make the investment."
An initial 15 jobs have been created, bringing the current staff number to 21.
This figure includes three new chefs.
Recruitment for a number of other roles, including bartenders and brand ambassadors, is ongoing and a further six roles are expected to be created by Easter 2018.
The site will trade as it is until the end of the festive period.
Mrs Hughes added: "We've given the place a deep clean and are now ready for the Christmas party season.
"After our New Year's Eve party we will close for a few days to undergo a refurbishment. It will involve a bit of TLC to bring out the beautiful features that are already there."
Derick Wilson, business development manager at Ulster Bank, said: "Barbara and Stuart created a successful drinks brand and export business so they are no strangers to innovation, and this is an exciting next chapter, which will further diversify their business.
"Ulster Bank is delighted to support not only the development of the new gastropub and visitor centre, but to support Stuart and Barbara as they relocate their bottling and distilling facilities to the new site, providing them with capacity for future growth."
RubyBlue Spirits was set up in 2008. It distils fruit liqueurs and vodka and exports to Europe including Russia, Australia, Asia, the Middle East.
It also supplies restaurants as well as the major supermarkets and independent retailers.