Bar’s new owners eye more venues

Bar’s new owners eye more venues

The new owners of The Halfway House outside Banbridge have said they it wont be the last hospitality venue they snap up.

Caorlan McAllister and his wife Ciara snapped up the bar for a six figure sum thanks to the support of Ulster Bank and bring with them a wealth of experience to the venue.

The pair worked together in Botanic Inns before its administration in 2013 and Caorlan started off as a teenager at the Apartment bar on Donegall Square West, before moving to The Fly off Botanic Avenue.

Caorlan said: “Through my time in Botanic Inns I worked in most of their bars, being subbed in to work, as many of them were extremely busy. It was an institution at the time. I learnt a lot and their structured management training was excellent so I learnt a lot.

“I had wanted to study architecture but I just found the draw of hospitality was so strong. I loved it, no two days were the same and I loved meeting new people and the diversity of the industry. I didn’t really fancy the monotony of the nine to five.”

A job at Scratch Nightclub was transferred when it was acquired by Fortuna Inns, which also owned famous Banbridge nightclub the Coach.

“When you’re young you don’t want to be having your job at risk but what happened with Botanic Inns going into administration was a big shock to everyone. My wife was working in Madison’s at the time so we were both employed by them

“The day we found out it was going into administration was the day we found out my wife was pregnant with our first. It was a stressful time for us, but we just kept on with it. Anyway, the hospitality industry is so adaptable, and it has had to have been over the last 20 or 30 years.”

Next came a stint as operations manager at Titanic Belfast, managing mass events catering for up to 700 people. But after two years he was made redundant from its hospitality department, along with more than 70 others, when Covid-19 lockdowns were implemented. “At that stage, I had three kids. It was a major setback as I loved my job. It was very good and I had a great life work balance.”

Covid-19 was wreaking havoc with hospitality in general, with both the Coach and Halfway House closing down — but it led to Caorlan’s introduction to the venue he’d later acquire.

“It was quite a frightening world to be in to take on a business and invest your money, effort and livelihood with it. I just went with it, head down and get on with it,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

After a refurbishment Caorlan and his wife, who now have four children, decided to take it on.

“It really was a big step to take it over. We’d invested so much effort and our money into it to keep it going and get it to a level we were happy with.

“I definitely would have ambitions to buy other hospitality assets. I’m thinking of something that The Halfway House can support by sharing resources, buying power and staff — maybe something else in a similar location.”