Long-awaited George Best Hotel set for June 14 kick off

The delayed George Best Hotel is set to finally open its doors on June 14
Gareth McKeown

THE long-awaited George Best Hotel will open its doors in Belfast on June 14 it has been confirmed.

Speaking to The Irish News, general manager, Belfast native, Damian Gilvary said bookings at the new 63-bedroom hotel are "healthy" as the launch of Signature Living's first project in the north draws near.

"We all are confident we'll fill it most nights, because we know, having worked in other hotels in the city how different it is," he explained.

"With the George Best name, we're obviously going to have that pull with international tourists, but also the Signature Living brand, which people love from being in Liverpool. It's just so different, it's more of an experience, rather than your vanilla chain hotels."

"I think the delay has actually been almost good for us because we've been constantly able to come up with ideas," Mr Gilvary continued.

In addition to the 63 bedrooms, the hotel features a restaurant and bar area and fifth-floor Windsor Suite function room, with wedding bookings confirmed from August.

The new £15 million hotel, housed within the former Scottish Mutual building is one of two Belfast schemes due to open in 2019, with the 43-room Waring Hotel in the Cathedral Quarter set to open in its first phase at the beginning of September.

The new "party hotel" on Waring Street is expected to open initially with an estimated 16 suites, some of which could feature up to 28 beds, but the second phase may not open until 2020.

This is due to the fact that the site of the second phase is currently the home of the Royal Ulster Rifles Regimental Museum.

"That's a bit more difficult, because of the museum," Mr Gilvary said

"He's happy to move, but it's obviously the process of getting the whole armoury and weapons moved to a different location. I think 2020 is more realistic for that portion."

In anticipation of the two new hotels opening in 2019 Signature Living is set to take on up to 140 new hospitality staff this year, none of which will be employed on zero hour contracts.

At present the company employs 40 staff, many of which are focused on sales and social media, while the George Best Hotel brand operated Christmas parties at Belfast Waterfront to accommodate bookings made in anticipation of the planned opening date last year.

It is expected Signature Living will embark on a major recruitment drive next month in Belfast ahead of the June opening of the George Best.

The company's third project in the city is the £20m transformation of the landmark Crumlin Road Courthouse into the 77-bedroom Crum Hotel.

Described by Signature Living boss Lawrence Kenwright as his most difficult ever project, it is not expected to be ready until late 2020, but the commitment remains to bring the major regeneration project to fruition.

"That's one of the projects he really wants to do, because it's such a challenge," Mr Gilvary said

"I think there was a point he was saying the Crum may not happen, because there's been so many obstacles, but it's one project that he wants to do and it would be amazing for the Signature profile."

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