Duke of York and Harp Bar to adopt earlier closing times to avoid Cathedral Quarter becoming 'another Temple Bar'

The owner of a number of Belfast's busiest bars has announced they will now close earlier in order to keep Belfast a "safe and welcoming place".

Willie Jack and the directors of Commerical Courts Inns have said that their venues The Duke of York and The Harp Bar will now call last orders at midnight - or before.

In an open letter, Willie Jack said the decision was made in order to stop the Cathedral Quarter from becoming "another Temple Bar" and also offer staff a better work-life balance.

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The letter read: "We have noticed a shift with many of our clientele deciding to come out earlier, and leave earlier, enabling them to access better public transport options for their return journeys and this is a culture we would like to encourage, and promote.

"Whilst we appreciate some venues may wish to make use of the opportunity now available for extended opening hours, this is not a business model we wish to follow, nor do we think it would be sensible for all licensed premises to stay open until 1am, or even 3am."

Willie Jack added that providing a "welcoming, safe and enjoyable environment" for their customers has always been our priority and they feel earlier closures will enable the bars to do this sustainably whilst also helping to reduce the strain on emergency services.

Willie Jack at the Duke of York alley
Willie Jack -Credit:Liam McBurney/PA Wire

He continued: "As employers, we also want to provide our staff with the best work life balance possible, and this move will aid shorter shift patterns that prioritise balance and safety for our teams.

"Whilst we are in favour of the many sensitive restorations of landmark buildings in the area over the last two decades, the recent proliferation of new licensed premises, combined with the extension to opening hours, has the potential to greatly change the Cathedral Quarter, and not for the better.

"This is an area rich in history and culture, with a strong connection to the arts, known for its live music, street art, and good food. Arts and culture have been the cornerstone of development here, with a collegiate shared vision amongst neighbouring businesses to ensure this does not become another Temple Bar.

"We hope this decision is a clear demonstration of our commitment to continuing to ensure the Cathedral Quarter remains a safe and welcoming place for the people of Belfast, and visitors to our great city."

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