Beannchor reports £5m Covid support in first full year trading under the pandemic

Beannchor's hospitality portfolio includes The Merchant Hotel in Belfast.

ONE of the north's biggest hospitality groups has detailed how government support, including £3.5 million in furlough payments, helped the business survive its first full financial year of trading during the pandemic.

The Beannchor Group's portfolio includes The Merchant Hotel, the Little Wing pizza chain and a number of popular bars, hotels and restaurants in Belfast, Lisburn and Hillsborough.

A new set of accounts for the group, published on Companies House, show the hospitality business suffered a substantial blow to its income for the year ending June 30 2021.

The group recorded a turnover of £11.1 million in those 12 months, a 35 per cent fall year-on-year and around one-third of its typical annual pre-pandemic trade.

However, Beannchor still managed to record a pre-tax profit of £2.9m for 2021, largely due to £4.39m in government support in those 12 months.

The hospitality group, which is owned by industry veteran Bill Wolsey, initially reacted to the pandemic in mid-March 2020 by temporarily laying off around 800 staff.

At the time, the hospitality boss described it as an "emotional and extremely tough decision”.

But he said, “if we do not act now, we will not have a business to return to".

The group subsequently reversed that move in the wake of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

According to the Beannchor Group's latest financial report filed with Companies House, the group benefited from around £3m in furlough payments in the year to June 30 2021.

It said the remaining £1.4m was sourced from “other government assistant schemes introduced during the pandemic”.

Bullitt Hotel in Belfast, which is no longer reported as part of the Beannchor Group's accounts, but remains under Mr Wolsey's ownership, benefited from a further £540,000 in furlough payments in the same 12 months.

The reports put the hospitality group's workforce at 580 at the end of June last year, which was down by around 35 year-on-year, but in line with the numbers it reported pre-pandemic.

The financial period covered by the accounts includes the opening of Beannchor's new £4m Haslem Hotel in Lisburn.

It opened in September 2020, creating around 50 jobs and joining a hospitality portfolio that includes The National, The Dirty Onion, Yardbird, the Ulster Sports Club, The Lark and Hillside.

Beannchor is also planning to expand south of the border with a new €30m Bullitt Hotel on Dublin's Capel Street. Planning permission for the project was granted by the Republic's independent planning body An Bord Pleanála in June 2021.

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