Veteran hotelier, Patsy O’Kane, former owner of the iconic Beech Hill hotel in Derry-Londonderry, has been named as the recipient of this year’s Licensed & Catering News Lifetime Achievement award.
Patsy, who retired from hospitality when the 30-bedroom hotel was sold to The House Collection last year, received a standing ovation when she collected the award in person at the Europa hotel in Belfast on Friday evening (June 7).
More than 450 people were in attendance at the awards, which are now in their 10th successful year. A total of 19 trophies were distributed to winners from across Northern Ireland’s hospitality and leisure sectors, including the best hotels, bars, restaurants and tourist attractions.
The awards were hosted by broadcasters Sarah Travers and Joe Lindsay with show-stopping live entertainment provided by NI singing sensation, Peter Corry, who brought elements of his current stage show, The Showman is Coming, to the Europa.
Also presented at the Europa event was the LCN Entrepreneur of the Year title, which went to Belfast brothers Peter and Ben Ringland, owners of The Flint hotel and the Town Square Café and Bar in Belfast.
Speaking after receiving the LCN Lifetime Achievement Award, Patsy said that she was ‘just ecstatic’:
‘To me, this was the perfect end to half-a-century in hospitality,’ she added. ‘To receive an award like this and to be recognised by your peers, it’s such an experience and I feel totally fulfilled.’
Patsy and her father, Leo Donnelly, took the listed Beech Hill Hotel on in 1989 and over the years, it was developed it into a hugely successful country house retreat, well known as a leading local wedding venue.
Many of Northern Ireland’s most successful chefs began their careers at the venue, including Michael Deane and Noel McMeel and the Beech Hill also played host to a succession of famous guests including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, John Carey, Will Ferrell and Stephen Rea.
Patsy, a former High Sheriff for the Borough of Londonderry, was awarded the MBE for services to hospitality in 2014.
Speaking after the event, organiser, Bill Penton, said that it had been a privilege to acknowledge Patsy O’Kane’s tremendous contribution to local hospitality:
‘Every year, LCN gives this award to an exceptional individual whose life has been spent working to develop hospitality in Northern Ireland and secure a better future for employees and those who visit our many venues and attractions. Patsy O’Kane has done this very successfully for a long period of time and it’s an absolute pleasure to be able to acknowledge those efforts in this way. Very well done.’
In past years, LCN’s Lifetime Achievement Award has gone to many famous hospitality figures, including the late Sir Billy Hastings, founder of Hastings Hotels; veteran hotelier, Lord Diljit Rana and well-regarded Tyrone hotelier, John Williamson MBE, long-time proprietor of The Valley Hotel.
For a full list of winners and finalists – and all the photos from the big night, click here