Downeys push ahead with key investments despite profits blip

The former Apartment in Belfast, owned by the Downey Group, is currently closed for refurbishment and will reopen next month as Hell Cat Maggies. Photo: Hugh Russell
Gary McDonald Business Editor

BOTTOM line losses widened in the last year at the Downey pubs group despite turnover rising.

Figures filed at Companies House show that H J Downey Ltd, run by brothers Henry, Seamus and John Downey, has a loss of £712,481 in the year to November, whereas it was only in the red to the tune of £145,922 the year before.

Sales, however, lifted from £7.1 million to £7.4 million over the period.

The Downey accounts show, however, that the company made significant capital expenditure while administrative expenses over the year jumped by around £400,000.

There were also readjustments around staff costs, for despite the company workforce reducing from 287 to 243 over the period, the overall wages bill jumped from £1.6m to £2.2m.

This was due in part to social security costs soaring nearly eightfold from £72,728 in 2016 to £556,704 last year.

However, in a strategic report accompanying the results, the board said it was satisfied with the performance.

They said: "The directors remain confidence that the current level of performance will be improved in the future and it is our intention to develop the present activities of the company."

That process is already under way, because the group is current spending £500,000 to revamp the Apartment Bar and Restaurant in Belfast city centre, which it has owned since 2014.

It will morph into a new Irish American style venue called 'Hell Cat Maggies' and is due to reopen in mid-October, creating 40 jobs.

The Downey Group's existing portfolio also includes McHughs Bar, Kitchen Bar and Thirsty Goat in Belfast as well as Sugar nightclub in Derry and Downeys Bar in Magherafelt.

Speaking to the Irish News last month about the redevelopment of the former Apartment (which first opened in 2004), Michele Downey from the Downey Group said: "Like everything else you have to reinvent yourself and if you look around the whole city, there's hardly one bar that hasn't gone through some form of change.

"A new bar era currently exists in a vibrant busy Belfast which embraces change and celebrates all that we are proud of in Belfast.

"The proposed new venue will be a warm, welcoming traditional style bar with a range of natural woods, old style finishes and eclectic bric a brac found in original Irish pubs combined with artwork that depicts and celebrates the story of Hell Cat Maggie and her New York history.

"Premium products, old favourite tipples, Irish American inspired food and live music, the new Hell Cat Maggie's will offer a blend of all that we love and a taste of something new."

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