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Harp Bar
Report

The Harp Bar, Belfast

As in many other places around the world, a quick after-work drink is never a bad thing in such a popular place as the Harp Bar in Belfast. Once a meeting point for punks, it is today an established cultural institution in Belfast.

Van Morrison once gave a gig here, as so did the Stiff Little Fingers and The Undertones. The new Harp Bar is located just a few metres away from the old Harp Bar, where Belfast’s punks rocked out in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Quite a few artists made a name for themselves here, some even gaining international fame. Back then, Hill Street used to be a dark place in a run-down former business and commercial district. Over the last twenty years, the Cathedral Quarter has been transformed into a cultural centre that now hosts events such as the annual Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. To this day, the Harp Bar is one of the most visited pubs in the area, probably also due to the live music every night. The historic version of the Harp Bar, replicated in a studio, once featured prominently in the multi-award winning movie hit “Good Vibrations”, released in 2013. It chronicles the life of Terri Hooley, a record-store owner who was instrumental in developing Belfast’s punk-rock scene at the time of the Northern Ireland conflict - back in those days, punk provided a social escape for dissenters of all denominations, playing a mediating role between Protestants and Catholics.

Harp Bar

The interior is resonant with Victorian Belfast

Harp Bar

The Harp Bar is located in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter

Victorian Belfast style with selected antiques
Today’s building of the Harp Bar dates back to 1832, when the Bushmills Distillery owned it as one of the oldest whiskey distilleries in the world with a history of more than 400 years. From 1989 the historic structure housed a serial award winning restaurant known throughout Northern Ireland, called Nick’s Warehouse. As of late, the premises are home to the Harp Bar, which spreads out over two floors. The owner, Willie Jack, whose company Commercial Court Inns operates other pubs in Belfast, collects Irish pub furniture and mirrors. Decorated in style, the interior of the Harp Bar is resonant with Victorian Belfast. Dark wood dominates alongside plush red velvet fabrics, polished copper surfaces, mirrors hung on walls, and specially coated Marmoleum on the ceiling. Adorned with memorabilia reminiscent of the Scottish whisky and dark ale culture, from neatly lined up bottles and historic posters through to parts of distillery equipment. The pub’s paraphernalia incorporates selected antiques – such as a historic street lamp that used to light up the area at the Ulster Tavern in Chister Street up until the bombing in the 1980s.

Harp Bar

Patrons include business folk enjoying a relaxing drink to end the day

Harp Bar

The illumination reminds of a traditional Irish pub, implemented with LED technology

Harp Bar

A relaxed setting contributes to lively conversations

Harp Bar

Nothing refreshes more and tastes better than the first sip of black ale

Mood lighting with LEDs recreates an old pub atmosphere
The illumination of the new Harp Bar was specified to represent a throwback to an old Belfast pub, and was implemented with state-of-the-art LED technology. As well as the decorative, historic pendant luminaires, ERCO lighting tools – Quintessence, , Pollux and Nadir – provide ambient lighting while accentuating the seating areas and decoration. Obviously, attention is also focused on the performing musicians, using dimmable spots. As the pub was gradually furnished with items from memorabilia collected by the pub owner, the designers faced the particular challenge of having to adapt the lighting concept periodically. Especially the branded mirrors with lettering, logos and ornamentation of Irish drinks manufacturers needed to be illuminated precisely, and naturally without causing glare. Though the project involved illuminating a pub, ERCO’s expertise in museum lighting came in useful here. The mirrors are accentuated using spotlights with sharp-edged beams that additionally bring out the true colours of the decorative printing. As a result, patrons can enjoy their drinks without direct glare from the luminaires or disturbing reflections. The pub’s LED lighting excels not least from conservational aspects – it is free of UV and infrared components, therefore ensuring optimum conservation of the antiques. Cheers!

Harp Bar

The venue offers live music seven nights a week

Harp Bar

The Harp Bar today enjoys international popularity

Movie trailer for “Good Vibrations”