Three cheers as 7m distillery gets approval from council planners

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

THE reality of a whiskey distillery on Monaghan Street has moved a little closer with the news that planning permission has been granted for the exciting project.
The venture, which is backed by businessman Michael McKeown to the tune of 7.3million, will comprise the distillery, a Victorian style bar, restaurant and visitor centre at a site currently occupied by the Armaghdown bar.
It will see the revival of a former distillery at this location - the Matt D'Arcy & Company business which goes back as far as 1817.
The aim of the distillery is to produce single malt for the premium market on the international stage.
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.
Around 50 hospitality jobs are set to be created alongside a Master Distiller and staff with cooperage skills to oversee the future maturation process of the whiskey that will be distilled at the Monaghan street site.
The restoration and build of the new distillery and facilities are expected to take around 18 months and, when completed, will bring forward a thriving international tourist attraction focusing on the US, Chinese, European and Australasian markets.
Speaking to the Newry Democrat, Mr McKeown said that the project was green-lit without even having to be discussed by planners - such is the total backing for it.
“Now that we've got this part done, we will now start several months now of dealing with Building Control on fine detail," said Mr McKeown.
“Then we have to go out to tender, and that will take us another two or three months. So we will be hoping to get started by January.
“We've had great support from the council."
I put it to Mr McKeown that his vision for the distillery is comparable to that which is being brought to life at Killeavy Castle, where Irish Australian Mick Boyle is developing a hotel and spa, which will open next year.
“They're both adventurous in that you're taking something that's completely blank and dead and reviving back to its use," agreed Mr McKeown.
“That's what we're hoping - it's big, bright and new, and opens up the street and opens up the car park at the back.
“We can't produce ourselves [yet] but we've acquired stocks of whiskey from different parts of the country and we will start bottling at the end of the year. Everything's on track."
Andrew Cowan, Chief Executive, Matt D'Arcy & Company added: "We are thrilled to have received such good news on the positive planning decision. This will now see us move to the next stage of the plans for Matt D'Arcy.
“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.
“We have already received a significant amount of interest in the plans to develop the Irish whiskey tourism offering on this part of the island which we believe will be very successful.
“For some years now, we have been maturing our own whiskey off site and will release a premium matured merchant Irish Whiskey in early 2019 prior to distilling at the Monaghan Street location on completion of the construction phase."
The news has been welcomed by Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy.
“I must commend Michael and the Matt D'Arcy Company on their commitment to Newry and this project," he said.
“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.
“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."


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