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100 jobs under threat as iconic Duke of York bar set to stay shut

The Duke of York won't open for the foreseeable future and 100 jobs are under risk at it and the Harp Bar, according to its owners Commercial Court Inns. Picture: Hugh Russell
Gary McDonald Business Editor

ONE of Belfast's best-known pubs The Duke of York will stay shut possibly until next Easter amid fears that 100 jobs could go within the group which owns it.

Commercial Court Inns, which also owns the Harp Bar in Cathedral Quarter along with the Dark Horse and the Friend at Hand whiskey emporium, has entered into a consultation period with employees.

A spokesman for the group - which last year increased its sales to £8.2 million and made a profit of £2.1 million - said: "It is with a heavy heart that we confirm the Duke of York and Harp Bar will remain closed for the foreseeable future.

"Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to find an economically viable way to reopen these iconic venues, which were built for convivial conversation, craic and live music in close quarters.

"The time will come when these doors will reopen and the lights will be turned back on.

"The craic and conversation will return and the reunion will be all the sweeter for the wait."

The business is headed by Willie Jack, who with his late business partner Bruce Kirk has owned the Duke of York for over 30 years, and through that time has experienced both great and very difficult trading periods.

His contribution to the city's burgeoning economy, alongside excellence in the running of his Belfast pubs, are seen as having significantly contributed to the unique offering in Belfast.

His group has worked with conference organisers, cruise ships agents and the likes of Visit Belfast to continually show the positivity of the city.

But in recent weeks he has spoken privately of the difficulties facing his and hundreds of other hospitality venues, which have suffered a catastrophic impact due to the Covid restrictions.

Reacting to the news of the potential job losses at the Duke of York and Harp Bar - both so-called "wet-only" pubs and which had been remained shut from Monday March 16 - Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said: “Sadly this situation is indicative of the current trading environment and the real impact Covid-19 is having on the hospitality sector.

“The toll this has taken on iconic bars such as these speaks volumes for how deep trading restrictions are hurting.

“We are devastated for those employees who have been given this news and know that this will not have been an easy decision to make.”

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