TOP PUBS CROWNED AT PUB OF THE YEAR AWARDS
The search to find Northern Ireland's top pubs came to a dramatic conclusion this week, as the cream of the local hospitality industry gathered at La Mon Hotel & Country Club to toast the trade at Pubs of Ulster's Pub of the Year Awards 2013.
Forty shortlisted premises from right across Northern Ireland went head to head to be named the best in a range of categories. There could only be one winner for the coveted overall Pub of the Year Award – which was clinched by The Harbour Bar in Portrush.
As well as taking the top Pub of the Year title on the night, The Harbour Bar also won the Best Charity Initiative Award for their extensive fundraising work for various charities.
Celebrating the award wins, Fionn McAlpine, The Harbour Bar said:
"Being named Northern Ireland's Pub of the Year is a real honour; we're delighted, especially as we were up against some tough competition. We are also thrilled to be awarded for our charity work, led by Willie Greg, who has raised so much for various causes, including Willie's Orphan Fund, which he set up after the Boxing Day tsunami to help Thai orphans.
"Our entire team works so hard and to have this dedication and commitment recognised by Pubs of Ulster is a tremendous achievement; it provides a real incentive for us to keep up our hard work and live up to the prestigious title of Pub of the Year.
"It is always our top priority to showcase Northern Ireland hospitality at its best and I would like to thank all our great staff for their hard work and dedication, which made these award wins possible."
A further six awards were handed out at the ceremony, hosted by Apprentice star, Jim Eastwood.
In a first for the Pub of the Year Awards, there was a double winner in one of the categories, with two of the five shortlisted for Best Barperson (in partnership with The Sunday Life) being crowned winners. Margaret Ferguson from The Lakeside in Ballydugan, Co. Down and Maggie McGaughey from The Front Page in Ballymena were both deemed to be exemplary and were named winners in the category, which was the only category that invited nominations from the public - through The Sunday Life newspaper.
Belfast was strongly represented on the night with three of the big winners from the city: The Limelight (Best Entertainment); The Garrick (Best Big Idea) and The Hudson Bar (Best New/Improved).
Further afield, The Elk in Toomebridge clinched the Best Food Award and The Wild Duck Inn won the Best Marketing Initiative Award.
Commenting on the awards, Mark Stewart, chairman of Pubs of Ulster, said:
"The standard of entries received for this year's Pub of the Year Awards was exceptionally high and the 40 shortlisted premises are prime examples of the world-class pubs that we have here in Northern Ireland.
"Our pubs play a vital role in their communities and an even more important role in our economy and as part of our cultural, leisure and tourism offering. Pubs of Ulster's Pub of the Year Awards recognise and reward excellence in our industry and shine a spotlight on the best businesses in the hospitality industry.
"I would like to congratulate all of this year's winners, and in particular The Harbour Bar on their success at the Awards. I would also like to commend all of our shortlisted pubs and Barpeople from across Northern Ireland, which each play their part in creating a rich and diverse pub trade of which we should all be proud."
The Pub of the Year's expert judging panel consisted of mentalist and hospitality expert, David Meade; drinks industry veterans, Padraig Cribben (CEO, Vintners Federation Ireland), Norman Trotter (former head of C&C), Terry Loughins (former Diageo) & Maire Campbell (former Coca-Cola); marketing whiz, Enda McShane (Velocity Worldwide); retail specialist, Hugh Black (formerly Victoria Square, Belfast); Martin Breen, editor, Sunday Life, Nicola Daly, Hospitality Review, Symon Ross, editor, Ulster Business and top business journalists from Northern Ireland's main daily newspapers.
After rigorous judging by the panel, the shortlisted pubs from across Northern Ireland were put through their paces with mystery shoppers visiting their premises, ensuring they adhere to best industry standards before the winners were decided.
The Pub of the Year Awards are the only industry recognised awards. This year's awards were supported by Belfast Distillery Company, Britvic, Coca-Cola, Diageo, Dillon Bass, Drinks Inc, Heineken Northern Ireland, Molson Coors, Richmond Marketing, Tennent's NI and media partners, Sunday Life, U105 and Hospitality Review NI.
For more information on the Pub of the Year Awards 2013, visit www.nipuboftheyear.com