Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

£7.3M distillery and tourist attraction set for historic site in Newry

Newry city is set for a new £7.3million Whiskey Distillery, Bar, Restaurant and Visitor Centre which is also being billed as a huge potential tourist attraction – to be built on the historic site of the ArmaghDown Bar in Monaghan Street, formerly home to the Matt D’Arcy & Company distillery business, which goes back as far as 1817.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council granted permission on Wednesday for the development, which is the brainchild of well-known Newry businessman and entrepreneur, Michael McKeown.

The project will see the revival of whiskey production at the old D’Arcy distillery site and, once operational, the new fully functioning distillery aims to produce around 9,000 cases of single-malt whiskey each year. The size of the entire project site is expected to be around 14,000 square feet over several floors with the £7.3million investment spread over three years.

Mr McKeown, owner and investor of Matthew D’Arcy & Company, purchased the site in February 2017 and the multi-million pound investment will result in the creation of a fully restored Victorian bar, restaurant and international visitors centre. The project is expected to take around 18 months and will create around 50 hospitality jobs, as well as positions for a Master Distiller and staff with cooperage skills, to oversee the future maturation process of the whiskey. 

Mr McKeown said he hopes to turn the landmark site into a “flagship international tourist attraction”.

“I’m thrilled that we are now moving forward with enthusiasm and that the benefits of this great asset will be felt by the business and hospitality sectors locally and nationally, ” said the local entrepreneur.

Chief executive of Matt D’Arcy & Company, Andrew Cowan, who has over 20 years international experience with a host of iconic Irish brands such as Jameson & the delivery of Ireland’s largest tourism initiative, The Gathering 2013, said he is confident the new venture will be “very successful”.

“This is a really special development which will create jobs, fill local hotels and bring many tourists to this key attraction on the eastern corridor of Ireland, perfectly positioned between Belfast and Dublin,” said Mr Cowan.

“Our ambition is to create a world class tourist offering through the restoration of the 200 year old site famous for whiskey distillation. Our ultimate aim is to produce around 9,000 cases per year of single malt and to retain stocks for at least 10 years aimed at the premium market.”

The chief executive revealed that the company has been maturing its own whiskey off site for several years now and are set to release a premium matured merchant Irish Whiskey in early 2019 prior to distilling at the Monaghan Street location on completion of the construction phase.

Describing the development of the project on the historic site into an international tourist attraction as “a passion of mine for some time”, owner Mr Keown added,

“I’m thrilled that we are now moving forward with enthusiasm and that the benefits of this great asset will be felt by the business and hospitality sectors locally and nationally.”

The investment in the city centre scheme has been widely welcomed, with Newry & Armagh MLA Conor Murphy one of the first to congratulate Newry businessman, Mr McKeown and the Matt D’Arcy Company “on their commitment to Newry and this project.”

“He has worked diligently with all, including elected representatives, to bring his vision of creating this project at the old Matt D’Arcy Whiskey Distillers to life,” said the Sinn Fein MLA.  

“This is good news for Newry City and the entire region with the potential of 50 jobs being created .I look forward to work on the development starting soon.”