Business

Closing doors in first lockdown cost Beannchor £1m a month, accounts suggest

Doors closed at The Merchant Hotel in Belfast during last year's lockdown. Picture By Hugh Russell.

NEW accounts for one of the north's biggest hospitality groups suggest its turnover fell by as much as £1 million per month during the initial phase of the first lockdown last year.

The Beannchor Group, which owns The Merchant Hotel in Belfast, reported a turnover of £17.1 million for the year ending June 2020, a fall of £3.4m (16.5 per cent) on the previous year.

The group's portfolio of hotels, bars and restaurants shut their doors on March 19 2020 in response to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, only opening on a limited basis just over three months later on July 3 2020 as lockdown restrictions were eased for the hospitality sector.

The group's premises include The Dirty Onion, The National, Yardbird and the Little Wing pizza chain. Beannchor also owns The Hillside in Hillsborough and Haslem Hotel in Lisburn,

The hospitality group, headed by Bill Wolsey, saw its pre-tax profits for its continuing operations more than halved from £4.6m in 2019 to £2m for the 12 months to June 30 2020.

Bullitt Hotel, which is still owned by Mr Wolsey, was moved to a new holding group Bullitt Holding Ltd in 2019 and reports its accounts separately. Bullitt Holding recorded a turnover of £3.5m for the year ending June 2020, but ended the year with a pre-tax loss of £323,257.

While the reporting period relates to the group's performance up to June 30 2020, commentary from Beannchor's directors indicate it has performed strongly since indoor hospitality reopened on May 24 2021.

“These last eight weeks since we opened our doors have shown strong trading with revenue levels ahead of the 2019 comparable pre-Covid pandemic,” said the directors.

“This performance is very pleasing given the group is still operating in a restricted capacity in many areas, in order to comply with social distancing.”

Last month Beannchor confirmed it would go ahead with a new €30m (£25.6m) Bullitt Hotel in Dublin after securing planning permission.

After initially announcing it would temporarily lay off around 800 staff in March 2020, the group subsequently placed most staff on the UK Government's furlough scheme.

But the implications of furloughing so many staff also emerged in the report, which revealed that a group subsidiary, Seanachai Limited, was dissolved due to an administrative error while most staff were furloughed.

The company said it will seek to re-instate the company promptly.

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