JD Wetherspoon has bought a landmark former Methodist Church in south Belfast.
Although the exact terms of the deal were not disclosed, Wetherspoon's is believed to have paid around £1.2 million for the property - around three times the original asking price, according to the Belfast Telegraph. The listed building is in a prime location on University Street and the company plans to transform it into one "decent-sized pub".
Wetherspoon's opened its first pub in Belfast in 2000 and now has nine pubs in Northern Ireland. The company has performed well in the North over the past few years and is now planning to expand in the region.
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The company is believed to be looking at another site in Belfast city centre and at the possibility of opening venues in other major towns such as Armagh, Newry and Omagh. Tim Martin, the founder and chairman of the successful chain, is originally from Holywood, Co. Down.
Wetherspoon's also began its first foray into the Republic during the summer, opening a pub in Blackrock, Co. Dublin. Similar to the situation in Belfast, the company is believed to be interested in acquiring The Church bar on Jervis Street in Dublin city centre, which occupies a former church. The chain also has plans to open more pubs throughout the Republic in the next year.