Belfast’s Crown Bar closes after tenants miss last orders for liquor licence
Managers of pub owned by National Trust put brave face on ‘unfortunate’ oversight
The Crown Bar in Belfast. It is not clear when the landmark pub in the city centre will be in a position to reopen. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Presseye.com
Belfast’s Crown Bar, the city’s best known pub, has had to close because its drinks licence has lapsed. The bar on Great Victoria Street is distinguished by its period gas lighting, church-style stained glass windows, cosy wooden snugs and tile mosaics.
The licence, owned by the National Trust but operated by tenants Mitchells and Butlers, has not been renewed since November 2012. It will remain shut pending a fresh application. The company said the incident was “unfortunate” while the National Trust said it was “concerned” and would “encourage the tenant to seek a speedy resolution to this issue”.
Pubs of Ulster, the professional body for the licensed trade in Northern Ireland, said: “This is not an ideal situation as the Crown Bar is one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic and historically important pubs. However it must operate within the law and we are confident that this important asset will be back in operation once the matter is resolved.”
A new licence application hearing is not due to be heard until next Friday. The licensee is putting a brave face on its oversight, claiming the closure period will be put to good use.
“During the closure we’ll be taking the opportunity to carry out some staff training at what is our quietest time of year and also some cleaning. We do apologise if this inconveniences our regulars but under the circumstances it is the right course of action for us to take.”
The pub, which dates from 1826, has welcomed VIPs staying at the Europa hotel and performers from the Grand Opera House, both just across the road. Bill Clinton, film stars, celebrities, thousands of tourists annually and a significant local clientele have all supped there.
The National Trust bought the pub in 1978 when it was run down and restored it, renting it to the current operators in 2006. A £0.5 million improvement programme was begun seven years ago on the listed property, bringing it up to its current state.
In a statement the trust said: “We are very concerned to learn about this oversight and we encourage the tenant to seek a speedy resolution to this issue to ensure this historic building is reopened to the public as soon as possible.”