The Crown Bar gets a make over but it's business as usual
WITH half a million people passing through its doors every year it is no wonder the Crown Bar in Belfast city centre needs a little TLC.
Six weeks of restoration work has begun on the Great Victoria Street public house which is actually a Victorian gin palace decorated by Italian artisan builders in the 1800s and now owned by the National Trust.
The bar is popular with tourists drawn by the promise of cosy snugs, gas lamps, a papier-mache ceiling, stained glass windows and brightly coloured tiles, but the footfall has caused wear and tear to the listed building.
One of the issues is a relatively new practice of customers carving their initials into the oak and mahogany snugs. The original gas lamps are also leaving acidic deposits on the papier-mache ceiling.
Experts from the National Trust will spend six weeks at work and key areas include improvements to the glass, mirrors, woodwork and ornate tiles.
Conservator with the National Trust Claire Magill said the organisation has looked after the Crown Bar since 1978 "with the last major restoration taking place back in 2007".
"Since that time we have seen this landmark attraction welcome more visitors than ever," she added.
“Given the amount of foot fall, the magnificent bar has seen some wear and tear. This has left the famous snugs looking dull, not to mention the pollutants from city centre traffic, which have covered the external tiles in dust.
“The ceiling is also experiencing carbon deposits from the original gas lighting, with sooty grey halos directly above the lights, and the heat is causing some damage to the famous papier maché ceiling. If we don’t act to protect these precious features then the damage could become irreversible.
“The woodwork and mirrors will also be meticulously cleaned and conserved by local specialists, many of whom worked on the recent Mount Stewart restoration project."
The bar has featured in a number of television shows and films including Divorcing Jack and the 1947 production Odd Man Out.
Last year Ukip leader Nigel Farage's request to film inside the premises were turned down.
The conservation project will run until mid-October and the bar will remain open throughout.