Top Belfast restaurant to close after 15 years amid costs and staff challenges

Soaring costs and a lack of staff has made it “impossible” to keep the doors open, owner says

The Barking Dog in Belfast

John Mulgrew

One of Belfast’s best known restaurants is shutting its doors after almost 15 years amid soaring costs and staff challenges.

Michael O’Connor, owner of the Barking Dog on the Malone Road, says a combination of soaring costs, the pandemic and a lack of staff has made it “impossible” to keep the doors open.

The restaurant has been a stalwart in the south of the city for almost 15 years, serving high-end bistro fare, small plates and fresh pasta.

“It’s with an incredibly heavy heart that I have made the decision to close the restaurant on a permanent basis at the end of this week,” a post from owner Michael O’Connor said on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“After almost 15 years of trading, it’s just become impossible to keep the doors open. With the cost of everything going through the roof, the after effects of the pandemic on the industry, not being able to get enough staff in the building to even open more than four days a week.

“Ultimately it’s been a battle for a number of years now especially that just doesn’t seem to have any other result.

"Unfortunately I know I’m not alone in this, with other friends in the industry having to make the difficult decision to close their businesses recently, as extenuating circumstances can simply make your working life untenable.”

He paid thanks to “all the customers that have walked through the doors over the years and bought into the Barking Dog and its style of dining and service”.

“There are so many regulars who will be sorely missed, but please know that you’ve meant the world to me and this restaurant.

Some amazing staff have graced the floors of this building over the years, with some going on to have huge success in this industry. It’s been a pleasure to watch you pups grow and develop into absolute stars.”

The post says the restaurant will remain open this week from Thursday to Sunday.

Northern Ireland’s hospitality sector is continuing to struggle more than almost any other, following the pandemic.

Issues include a 20pc Vat rate, which compares with a special tourism and hospitality rate of 9.5pc in the Republic.