Top Northern Ireland pubs sell for £3m to two new generation publicans
A pub and restaurant in north Belfast and a historic bistro pub in Drumbeg have been sold to separate hospitality firms for around £3m, Business Telegraph can reveal.
The Chester on the Antrim Road has been bought by Janine Kane, the woman behind the popular Muriel's and The Spaniard bars, both in Belfast city centre.
Bob Stewarts on the Ballyskeagh Road is understood to have been purchased by Jar Inc Ltd, the hospitality arm of distributors Drinks Inc, which was sold to Musgrave at the beginning of December.
Ms Kane told the Belfast Telegraph that she will invest in a substantial revamp of The Chester after she completes the purchase of the property today.
The publican is to complete the purchase of The Chester from the Diamond Group, which has operated the establishment for around 35 years.
The phased revamp will have an initial spend of £200,000, Ms Kane said.
It's one of many recent investments for the entrepreneur, who is also behind the Jeggy Nettle bar in Stranmillis and Panama City Garden and Cafe on McClintock Street in Belfast.
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Ms Kane has also pledged to pump £350,000 into Muriel's bar on Church Lane in Belfast.
A planning application to expand the bar and restaurant into a neighbouring retail outlet has been approved and is expected to be ready in spring 2020.
Speaking about the purchase of the Chester, she said: "We are very excited to take on a very well-established, successful business and as a company we simple want to invest in the property and make it the go-to neighbourhood bar on the Antrim Road."
Formerly owned by Eamon Diamond of the Diamond Group, the Chester Bar is the publican's second sale in recent months.
Mr Diamond also sold the Bellevue Arms, also on the Antrim Road, to Wolf Inns in March. The property was the former family home of the Diamond family.
Mr Diamond also owns Dukes Hotel at Queen's, the Rusty Saddle in Belfast and the Marine Court Hotel in Bangor.
In 2018 he had listed the Rusty Saddle on the property market for £2.5m but plans for a sale were abandoned. The Howard Street pub, which was then known as Shenanigans, shut temporarily, reopening after a major revamp.
It is not believed that Mr Diamond will be seeking to sell any more of his pubs, with one hospitality source telling the Business Telegraph that he was "actively seeking out" new opportunities.
Meanwhile in Lisburn, Jar Inc, led by businessman Paul Camplisson, is believed to have purchased Bob Stewarts in Drumbeg for around £1.2m from Jackie Gilmore.
The company already owns a string of pubs including the Fountain Bar and the Albany, which it took over in November after former owners Bachus Group's lease came to an end.
As a result of that transaction Jar Inc closed the Albany's two neighbouring patisseries Miel et Moi and Miel et Vite.
In a social media post, Jar said it would introduce a "new concept" in 2020 for the cafes.
The Albany also closed for a short period and reopened at the end of November for a "rebeginning".
And now Jar Inc's latest investment will involve taking on Bob Stewarts on the Ballyskeagh Road. There has been a public house on or near the current site since 1640.
It follows on from Musgrave's purchase of Mr Camplisson's drinks distribution business, Drinks Inc, at the beginning of December.
It will now operate as a stand-alone entity but with Paul Camplisson remaining part of the firm on a consultancy basis.
Mr Camplisson said last week: "Becoming part of Musgrave is a fantastic opportunity for the Drinks Inc business.
"Musgrave will enable us to provide an enhanced service to our customers and their track record of growing successful customer-focused businesses makes this the right move for Drinks Inc."
Mr Camplisson and Mr Gilmour were unavailable for comment on the sale of Bob Stewarts.
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, described the recent sales activity in the pub sector as "heartwarming".
He said: "The sale of older establishments is something we are seeing across the industry as one generation succeeds the other.
"It's heartwarming to see the lives of these pubs, which have been kept vibrant for many years by some of the sector's best known publicans, getting a new lease of life from new entrants, established business owners or family members who will take them forward and into a new and bright future."