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Belfast nightspot Lily's gets new lease of life as The Albany

Former club Lily's to be relaunched in £700k overhaul by Drinks Inc

A landmark pub and restaurant in south Belfast is to be renamed, renovated and relaunched with the creation of 50 new jobs.

Lisburn Road nightspot Lily's has been christened The Albany by new owners Drinks Inc, which acquired it last year from the hospitality group led by Harry Diamond.

The venue, which started out as TaTu under the ownership of Bill Wolsey in the early 2000s, and was then renamed Monzu, will receive a £700k overhaul and extension, including a licensed patisserie and roof-top garden in an empty shop next door already owned by the company.

A spokesman for the new business confirmed that Calla House Ltd is the tenant of The Albany, supported by private investors, while Drinks Inc is the landlord.

Paul Langsford, a relatively new name to the licensed trade in Northern Ireland, is the director of Calla House and will oversee the new development.

Mr Langsford said: "This bar has enormous potential and our team is investing considerable time and expertise in developing an atmospheric environment within our exciting new venue, which provides a real alternative to the city centre bar scene."

Mark Beirne, a familiar name thanks to his input into Belfast nightspots Milk, the Potthouse, House, Filthy McNasty's and El Divino, is employed as a consultant for Calla House.

Mr Beirne was recently disqualified as a director for eight years over his conduct at the helm of Life Inns Limited, Sketch Developments Limited and NI Leisure Limited. However, the disqualification does not impinge on his eligibility to continue working in the trade.

Twenty staff who worked at Lily's are thought to have lost their jobs when the pub closed.

Designers O'Donnell O'Neill Design Associates have been recruited to restore the property – and build on the original "striking architectural design" of TaTu by creating a bar within a bar.

The new bar will open in September before phase two of the project involving the construction of the patisserie and rooftop garden.

Former Tatu owner Bill Wolsey recently unveiled plans to open a new bar, The National Grande Cafe Bar, on High Street in the city around the corner from his flagship Merchant Hotel.

He will also open a patisserie next to the new pub.
 

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Forestside is in fashion as H&M ponders move into closure-hit centre

Fashion retailer H&M is understood to be increasing its presence in Northern Ireland with a new branch in Belfast.

It's thought the Swedish company is moving into Forestside Shopping Centre, partly filling the gap left by the recent departure of a number of big high street names.

H & M – Hennes and Mauritz – is expected to take up tenancy in the mall in the south of the city following the summer's closure of River Island plus the Arcadia group's Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Evans.

The retailer was yesterday unavailable for comment on the issue.

But sources said it was confident the retailer, known for what is described as "fast-fashion", will soon be among the Forestside staples.

It is hoped the introduction of the international brand will help increase the footfall at the centre lost when HMV dramatically shut up shop as part of a UK-wide winddown announced in February this year.

A retail commentator has said if the speculation was true, it would augur very well for the future security of the centre.

Donald McFetridge, from the Ulster Business School at the University of Ulster, said since the days of Supermac: "Forestside has always been widely regarded as one of the best shopping locations in, not only Belfast, but Northern Ireland."

"With Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's as two of its most important anchor tenants, the centre is always going to have a tremendous pull and cachet and the presence of these two major retail clients guarantees that there would be more than enough footfall to generate great interest from other retailers in the non-food sector."

Commenting that the demise of the three Arcadia outlets "did cast a shadow over the future of the centre, but only temporarily", Mr McFetridge said the arrival of H&M "augurs well for the Forestside".

"It does not surprise me in the slightest that a retailer like H&M could be actively seeking to take up residence at the centre," he said.

"In my opinion, the arrival of an H&M outlet would be good not only for that company but also good for Forestside and its shoppers.

"It is vitally important for centre management to achieve the correct balance and blend of food and non-food retailers in order to cement the future of any shopping centre and, if rumours are true, I believe that the centre will become even more popular with consumers than it already is."
 

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Weather boosts Northern Ireland shopping numbers

Good weather helped improve shopper numbers on Northern Ireland's high streets last month, according to the latest figures for the industry.

July saw a 3% increase in footfall - the first time there has been a rise in four months.

The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium said: "It is a real relief to see that shopper numbers are on the up again after the previous month's steep drop."

However NI still has the greatest number of vacant shop units in the UK.

NIRTC director, Aodhán Connolly, said the weather and "improving economic outlook" encouraged more people to shop for seasonal food and fashions.
 

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That sounds like an interesting project, although I'm sure Mr Wolsey was not the person who coined that quote...does the Garrick not have a near-identical quote on their street-side wall?

Anyway, I live in Berlin where blank walls are routinely used as a canvas for artists; I would love to see more of that at home. Something simple like that is all it takes for ugly void spaces to be transformed into something that people will actually care about!
 

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Forestside is in fashion as H&M ponders move into closure-hit centre

Fashion retailer H&M is understood to be increasing its presence in Northern Ireland with a new branch in Belfast.

It's thought the Swedish company is moving into Forestside Shopping Centre, partly filling the gap left by the recent departure of a number of big high street names.

H & M – Hennes and Mauritz – is expected to take up tenancy in the mall in the south of the city following the summer's closure of River Island plus the Arcadia group's Dorothy Perkins, Wallis and Evans.

The retailer was yesterday unavailable for comment on the issue.

But sources said it was confident the retailer, known for what is described as "fast-fashion", will soon be among the Forestside staples.

It is hoped the introduction of the international brand will help increase the footfall at the centre lost when HMV dramatically shut up shop as part of a UK-wide winddown announced in February this year.

A retail commentator has said if the speculation was true, it would augur very well for the future security of the centre.

Donald McFetridge, from the Ulster Business School at the University of Ulster, said since the days of Supermac: "Forestside has always been widely regarded as one of the best shopping locations in, not only Belfast, but Northern Ireland."

"With Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury's as two of its most important anchor tenants, the centre is always going to have a tremendous pull and cachet and the presence of these two major retail clients guarantees that there would be more than enough footfall to generate great interest from other retailers in the non-food sector."

Commenting that the demise of the three Arcadia outlets "did cast a shadow over the future of the centre, but only temporarily", Mr McFetridge said the arrival of H&M "augurs well for the Forestside".

"It does not surprise me in the slightest that a retailer like H&M could be actively seeking to take up residence at the centre," he said.

"In my opinion, the arrival of an H&M outlet would be good not only for that company but also good for Forestside and its shoppers.

"It is vitally important for centre management to achieve the correct balance and blend of food and non-food retailers in order to cement the future of any shopping centre and, if rumours are true, I believe that the centre will become even more popular with consumers than it already is."
When I look at retail businesses that inexplicably go bust, people like Game, Xtra Vision (was in decline YEARS before there was a Lovefilm or streaming alternative to DVD), I usually put it down to the companies over-reaching themselves and opening up unprofitable units in suburban shopping centres like Forestside or Connswater. How many sales are H&M going to make 9-5 Monday- Thursday when takings outside of the anchor tennants like Sainsburys, Dunnes & Marks & Sparks are low.
 

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When I look at retail businesses that inexplicably go bust, people Game, Xtra Vision (was in decline YEARS before there was a Lovefilm or streaming alternative to DVD), I usually put it down to the companies over-reaching themselves and opening up unprofitable units in suburban shopping centres like Forestside or Connswater. How many sales are H&M going to make 9-5 Monday- Thursday when takings outside of the anchor tennants like Sainsburys, Dunnes & Marks & Sparks are low.
I don't think H&M are at any risk of going bust though ...
 

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Belfast hotels 'record week' at WPFG

Belfast hotels have enjoyed some records of their own over the 10 days during the World Police and Fire Games.

Chief Executive of Visit Belfast's Welcome Centre, Gerry Lennon, revealed that the total revenue of hotels booked through them was £1.73 million with almost 37,000 bed nights sold.

There was almost 100 per cent occupancy during the period, well above the August average of 77.7%

Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: "The World Police and Fire Games was a huge success in terms of the numbers who came and had a positive experience of Belfast and the boost to the hospitality industry.

"We must keep our eyes on the prize. That means working together to send out positive messages about our city and ensuring that when the world media focuses on Belfast, it is for the right reasons."

There were more visitors from the USA, Canada, Australia, Russia, Mexico and Brazil than European neighbours Sweden, Spain, and Germany.

Alderman Gavin Robinson, chairman of Belfast City Council's Strategic Policy, added: "Tourism is a key part of the city council's £150 million investment programme, evidenced by the work now under way at the new Welcome Centre in Donegall Square which will open later this year.

"The success of the games underlines the importance of bringing major events to Belfast and our ability to put on a world class show."
 

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Talking of blank walls and artists, how about letting someone talented loose on the Boat?!

Looking forward to the opening of National Grande. Wish they'd reclad River House already!
 

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If I was an artist I would! lol I remember seeing a post on here not so long about a proposed building just behin River House that would at least distract the eye, was it was a bit taller. Can't remember the project though!
 

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If I was an artist I would! lol I remember seeing a post on here not so long about a proposed building just behin River House that would at least distract the eye, was it was a bit taller. Can't remember the project though!
Sugarhouse Square.

 

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Be interesting to know what 'potential sites' they were looking at.


Heatons chief admits plans for Belfast store shelved due to high rates

The head of an Irish retail chain, in which Newcastle United boss Mike Ashley has a majority share, has said high rates have scuppered his plans to open in Belfast city centre.

John O'Neill, the Belfast-born chief executive of Heatons, said he had considered sites in Belfast city centre but that rates were too high.

He spoke as the company's accounts for the year to the end of April revealed plans for expansion after the quadrupling of pre-tax profits to £2.3m.

It recently opened a store in Londonderry's Richmond Centre, adding to 12 others in the province in locations like Newtownabbey, Cookstown and Omagh.

Mr O'Neill said: "We have four or five sites under negotiation but Belfast is difficult at the moment because of rates.

"There are amazingly good rental deals in Belfast city centre at the moment but rates are majorly out of proportion and are actively discouraging us and other retailers from setting up. That's a big, big problem.

"When it comes to Donegall Place, rental deals with landlords and banks are reflecting where the marketplace is but local authorities aren't doing the same with rates." Business rates in Northern Ireland are to be revalued in two years' time – current values date back to 2003.

Value for money department store Heatons, which also has Sports World stores in its outlets, has 52 stores across Ireland. It employs 431 people in retail in Northern Ireland, 11 in administration and another 100 in its distribution centre in Antrim. "All distribution for Ireland is run from Antrim," Mr O'Neill said.

The accounts for Northern Ireland – it does not publish accounts for the Republic – revealed a quadrupling in pre-tax profits from £537,455 in 2012 to £2.3m.

The company's motto is "value for money", a philosophy emphasised in the accounts and directors' report. "The company is exposed to the economic risk of a countrywide slowdown in growth," it said. "The company continues to offer quality products at very competitive prices to protect itself in this regards."

The directors – Mark and Hugh Heaton, sons of founder Hubert, along with Mr O'Neill and Mr Ashley – said they would not be paying a dividend.

Mr O'Neill said the company had a good relationship with its banker, Ulster Bank.

"They have been extremely supportive and finance has been available whenever necessary. The expansion in the business would not have happened without it," he said.
 

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Warehouse move a blow to CastleCourt centre

A ladieswear fashion brand is moving from Belfast's CastleCourt Shopping Centre to the rival Victoria Square, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The decision of Warehouse to up sticks will be a blow to CastleCourt, which has faced stiff competition from Victoria Square since the high-end shopping venue opened five years ago.

Clare Kearney, market manager for Warehouse in Belfast, said: "We are planning to open on Friday September 27, when we will also unveil the winner of the Belfast Talent Spot competition that we are running."

No one from CastleCourt was available for comment.

A Warehouse shop in Forestside Shopping Centre in south Belfast remains open.
 

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Was through CastleCourt on Saturday, and I was surprised at how many vacant units there where. It almost appeared that the vacant units out numbered the let units.

It is becoming a bit scabby though with all the 'market stalls' dotted about the ground floor.

Once Royal Exchange gets developed, I do wonder where all these retailers are going to come from to fill the units.
 

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I think Royal Exchange will devastate Castlecourt. It's not the type of shopping experience people want any more.

I called in yesterday as it opened till 6 and had to grab something but it was the first time I've been in the place in years. It looks awful, really dated and as you mentioned a huge number is vacant units.

The best thing they could do once Royal Exchange is finished is to demolish Castlecourt and restore the Royal Avenue facade that was lost when they built the place.
 

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The best thing they could do once Royal Exchange is finished is to demolish Castlecourt and restore the Royal Avenue facade that was lost when they built the place.
I wouldn't be surprised if this became a viable option at some point. Castle Court would need massive investment to bring it into the 21st century; if I worked for Westfield I would seriously consider if just selling the place for redevelopment would be the most profitable option.

It's hard to fathom that only 5 years ago Castle Court were planning to buy and demolish most of Smithfield to expand the centre, knowing that RE would be built first. How on earth did they think they could fill all that floor space? :bash:
 
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