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 on Wednesday 12th November for Pubs of Ulster’s Pub of the Year Awards 2014.
A total of 38 shortlisted premises from right across Northern Ireland went head to head in 10 categories.
There could only be one winner for the highly coveted overall Pub of the Year 2014 award – which was clinched by The Goat’s Toe in Bangor.
Judges commented that The Goat’s Toe “clearly cares about its customers and community”; that it has a “strong, enthusiastic committed workforce” and “the management team are brimming over with fantastic and unusual ideas.” The judges also commended the venue for “championing local music and local food to achieve a wide and varied age profile of customers that all enjoy the venue side-by-side.”
Celebrating the prestigious award win, Andrew Gedge, The Goat’s Toe said:
“Being named Northern Ireland’s Pub of the Year is a real honour. Our entire team works so hard and we are continually improving our premises to ensure we stay at the top of our game; most recently we installed a unique roof top beer garden that’s open all year round and features its own bar and caravan; it has become a great talking point for regulars and visitors alike.
“To have our dedication and commitment recognised by Pubs of Ulster is a tremendous achievement for the whole team; 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.”
A total of 10 awards were handed out at the ceremony, which was hosted by Cool FM presenter and Bangor resident, Pete Snodden and attended by VIP guests including Finance minister, Simon Hamilton, mindreader and mentalist, David Meade; BBC weatherman, Barra Best and actor, Charlie Lawson (Coronation Street’s, Jim McDonald).
In Belfast, Ryan’s Bar and Restaurant scooped Best Big Idea; Shiro was named the winner of Best Marketing Idea; The Albany won Best New /Improved Pub and The National Grande Café won Best Pub Week Event. Further afield, the Adair Arms in Ballymena was awarded the Best Hotel Bar title; Clare Johnston of The Railway Arms in Coleraine was crowned Best Barperson in association with Sunday Life; Sallys of Omagh clinched Best Charity Event; The Maghera Inn in Castlewellan won the Best Food title and The Wild Duck Inn in Portglenone picked up the Best Entertainment award.
Commenting on the awards, Mark Stewart, chairman of Pubs of Ulster, said: “Pubs of Ulster’s Pub of the Year Awards recognise and reward excellence and the important contribution local pubs make, not only within their own communities, but to the hospitality industry as a whole.
“This year we received our highest level of entries to date. The high standard of our finalists is a clear indication of the increasing professionalism and quality of pubs right across Northern Ireland.
“I would like to congratulate all of this year’s winners, and in particular The Goat’s Toe for being named the overall Pub of the Year 2014. I would also like to commend all of our shortlisted pubs – to reach the final of a competition of this scale is no mean feat; each and every pub should be proud to be counted amongst the best in Northern Ireland.”
The Pub of the Year Awards is the culmination of an extensive search for the best pubs in a range of categories across Northern Ireland.
This Pub of the Year’s expert judging panel consisted of mentalist and hospitality expert, David Meade; digital media expert Russell Moore; retail specialist, Hugh Black (formerly Victoria Square, Belfast); retail, digital and marketing expert Enda McShane (Velocity Worldwide); Worldwide drinks industry veterans, Maire Campbell (former Coca-Cola); Padraig Gribben (CEO, Vintners Federation Ireland); Norman Trotter (former head of C&C); Terry Loughins (former Diageo) and Brigid Simmons (CEO, British Beer & Pub Association); Martin Breen, editor, Sunday Life; Nicola Daly, manager, Hospitality Review; Jordan Moates, Downtown/Cool FM; Gary McDonald, business editor, The Irish News; John Mulgrew, digital journalist, The Belfast Telegraph and Richard Sherriff, business editor, The News Letter.
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 sponsored by Britvic, Coca-Cola, Diageo, Dillon Bass, Heineken Northern Ireland, Molson Coors, Richmond Marketing, Tennent’s NI, Drinks Inc. and media partners, Sunday Life, Downtown/Cool FM and Hospitality Review NI.
For further information, the full list of winners and pictures from Pubs of Ulster’s Pub of the Year Awards 2014, visit www.nipuboftheyear.org