Mourne Seafood founder Bob McCoubrey steps back from popular Belfast restaurant

Bank Square eatery will continue to trade under new ownership

Exterior image of Mourne Seafood Bar with inset image of Bob McCoubrey.
Mourne Seafood Bar in Bank Square Belfast continues to trade under new ownership after its founder Bob McCoubrey (inset) stepped aside.

The founder of one of the north’s best known seafood restaurant businesses has stepped down after two decades.

Bob McCoubrey has confirmed Mourne Seafood Bar in Belfast has been taken over by another company, which is being run by the restaurant’s existing staff and management.

The well-known hospitality figure said the Bank Square restaurant continues to trade as normal, while the Mourne Seafood Cookery School is unaffected.

It comes seven years after the Mourne Seafood restaurant in Dundrum was similarly taken over by staff.

Speaking to The Irish News, Mr McCoubrey confirmed Mourne Seafood Limited, the company name for his Belfast restaurant, was in the process of being wound up.

Mourne Seafood Bar, Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Mourne Seafood Bar is one of Belfast's best known restaurants. Picture by Mal McCann

Earlier this week, ASM Accountants in Magherafelt placed a public notice under the Insolvency (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, inviting creditors of Mourne Seafood Limited to attend a meeting in The Diamond Centre in the Co Derry town on April 8.

Mr McCoubrey, who launched the Mourne Seafood franchise in 2005, said the increasingly challenging environment for the hospitality industry since the Covid-19 pandemic had left Mourne Seafood Ltd in significant debt.

“There was just too much debt,” he said. “We had no debt pre-Covid. You just don’t get a chance to pay it off with the margins so slim.”

Earlier this year, Mourne Seafood announced it would cease lunchtime trading on weekdays citing trading conditions in Belfast city centre during the new post-Covid hybrid working era.

The loss of trade came during a time when hospitality businesses were facing rising costs across the board.

The Bank Square premises was also hit by an arson attack in July 2023 that destroyed the restaurant’s extensive outdoor seating area.

Bob McCoubrey, owner of Mourne Seafood Bar, outside his destroyed outdoor area. Picture by Hugh Russell
Bob McCoubrey standing in Mourne Seafood Bar's outdoor area, which was destroyed by fire in July 2023. Picture by Hugh Russell

“I am stepping back from it all,” he said. “I just decided to cut my losses and give a new team a go at it.

“The management team that were there, including the head chef and front of house, they have taken it over.”

Mr McCoubrey said customers are unlikely to notice any difference.

“The fresh company has a new start and they are going to honour all the gift vouchers.

“Customers won’t be affected and suppliers won’t be affected, they have all been paid,” he added.