Bar acquisition is Central Inn to Oakleaf plans in Mid-Ulster

Magherafelt-based Oakleaf Group has acquired The Central Inn in Cookstown as part of an overall investment of £3 MILLION in the Mid-Ulster region over a two-year period.

Established in 1969, the three-storey Central has been a mainstay in the heart of Cookstown for more than half a century and work is already under way to transform the venue into ‘The 40 Thieves’, an Irish American style pub that promises to give patrons ‘a taste of the 19th century Big Apple’.

In addition, Oakleaf will be creating 23 new serviced apartments above and to the rear of the Main Street bar, in a ‘town centre living’ initiative to help revitalise William Street and encourage people to live there.

The news comes on the back of the acquisition and refurbishment of the neighbouring building, formerly Faulkner’s Chemist, which is now occupied by Argento Jewellers and includes three new apartments.

The 40 Thieves is due to open its doors in July 2024, with the first phase of apartments expected to be released to the public in June.

The opening of The 40 Thieves and its associated apartments increases Oakleaf’s expanding portfolio in the market town of Cookstown, once the mecca of the Mid-Ulster social scene.

The company already owns the historic Clubland nightclub and neighbouring Cherry Tree bar in Molesworth Street, as well as the popular TIME Bar & Venue on James Street – for which plans are also in place for a major summer refurbishment.

Whilst the associated Jailbird Garden Bar will remain open and untouched during the construction works, TIME’s ground floor and first floor venue will be closed from Sunday June 30 and transformed into a traditional Irish sports pub, with new state-of-the-art multi-purpose first and second floor venue, both to be launched in the autumn.

The Oakleaf investment doesn’t stop in Cookstown, with work now completed on The Black Sheep bar in the nearby village of The Loup, which was purchased by the Group in June last year.

An on-going 12-month refurbishment has created a revitalised community hub for the village, with a new restaurant in the venue to be opened in the coming months.

Speaking of the company’s recent investments, Oakleaf Managing Director Patrick Scullion said: “The hospitality industry across Northern Ireland has been suffering badly since the pandemic, when it was undoubtedly one of the hardest hit sectors, and the Mid-Ulster region is no exception.

“Cookstown was once the social capital of Mid-Ulster with people travelling from all over Northern Ireland to attend the town’s bars and nightclubs, or the bustling Saturday market.

“Our aim is to do our bit to help restore the town to its former glory with significant investment in exciting new venues to entertain locals and attract visitors – and also, through the introduction of on-street living, to help revitalise the town centre and bring back that famous ‘Cookstown sizzle’.

“A vibrant town centre is essential for creating a thriving, inclusive community where residents can live, work, and play,” he added, “so we don’t look at this as simply building apartments, but rather building a sustainable future for the area.

“Town-centre living offers residents the convenience of having essential services – such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and healthcare facilities – as well as bars, clubs and restaurants, just steps away from their homes. This proximity not only saves time but also reduces the need for reliance on private transportation, contributing to a more sustainable lifestyle.”

Born and bred in The Loup, just eight miles from Cookstown, the acquisition and renovation of The Black Sheep bar has brought particular satisfaction to Patrick on a personal level.

“As a Loup man myself, naturally the village holds a special place in my heart,” said Patrick.

“The Loup might be a small village but our aim is to give the local community and surrounding areas a venue they can be proud of, and a social hub where people can meet up for food, drink, live televised sports, music and a host of other activities for everyone to enjoy.”

Headquartered just outside Magherafelt, with offices in Dublin and Manchester, The Oakleaf Group employs approximately 280 people across its various enterprises, which include Specialist Interiors, Property Development and Hospitality Divisions.

The Group opened its first entertainment venue, TIME Bar & Venue, in Cookstown in 2012 and now operates a total of six venues in Northern Ireland, including Clubland, Cookstown, and The Harp and Fiddle in Strabane.

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