Belfast Telegraph

Ashers Bakery to close Belfast city centre branch in wake of Primark blaze

Ashers Bakery won’t be renewing the lease on their Royal Avenue branch
Ashers Bakery won’t be renewing the lease on their Royal Avenue branch

By Staff Reporter

A popular Belfast bakery has fallen victim to the lack of shoppers in the city centre in the wake of the Primark fire.

Ashers Bakery is just a few yards from the burned-out shell of Bank Buildings in Belfast's Royal Avenue.

Footfall in Belfast city centre has slumped by a third in the aftermath of the devastating blaze at the end of August.

The bakery owners, the McArthurs, were in the headlines last week after winning a landmark discrimination appeal at the Supreme Court.

The court ruled that Ashers Baking Co had not discriminated on grounds of sexual orientation, religious belief or political opinion in declining to decorate a cake with the message "Support Gay Marriage".

Judges unanimously agreed the bakery had objected to the message and not the messenger.

Last night, Ashers said the company is trading well, and the decision not to renew the lease on the Royal Avenue branch of the bakery chain was based purely on specific commercial considerations relating to that outlet.

General manager Daniel McArthur said: "It simply comes down to the figures.

"We decided not to renew the lease.

"Belfast city centre isn't busy enough - our other shops are much busier."

Mr McArthur added: "It's been planned for some time, and I am pleased to say there will be no job losses."

The Royal Avenue outlet is one of nine retail sites operated by the company in the east Antrim and Belfast area.

News of the Ashers closure comes as city centre traders say the once-vibrant shopping heart of the city has become a 'ghost town' in the wake of the devastating Bank Buildings blaze.

A security cordon ensures pedestrians and shoppers are kept away from the gutted former Primark store - but it also prevents them reaching the many shops close to the charred Castle Junction ruin.

Some businesses have called for the building to be pulled down immediately to mitigate the economic impact.

However, it is understood any demolition project would be significantly complicated by safety concerns around the huge structure.

Heritage campaigners have called for the listed building to be saved.

Primark itself has contributed half a million pounds to help traders affected by the blaze and the subsequent security ring of steel.

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