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By Paul Ainsworth

O NE of Belfast’s oldest Chinese restaurants will not be affected by its owners’ decision to close a city hotel due to turbulent economic conditions. The Welcome restaurant on Stranmillis Road first opened its doors in 1973, and is owned by the Wong family, whose Welcome Group also owns the Lansdowne Hotel in North Belfast, which shut last week with the loss of up to 35 jobs. A branch of the Welcome restaurant operated out of the Lansdowne, which has also closed.

There was anger in North Belfast when news of the closure became public, with concern over the number of deposits paid by customers booking functions at the venue, including wedding receptions, yet the Wong family have insisted all deposits will eventually be repaid.

The family acquired the Lansdowne in 2001 when expanding their business, but last week announced it was being put into liquidation after “struggling” to keep the hotel afloat amidst a crippling recession. However, despite the blow to the family business, the landmark Welcome restaurant, which opened at the height of the Troubles, and remains a popular local venue, will continue to operate, alongside a spin-off takeaway kitchen, also operating in the Stranmillis area.

Andrew Wong, who hails from Stranmillis himself, said: “The recession has obviously been difficult for us in terms of operating the Lansdowne Hotel, but as far as we are concerned, there will be no change in relation to the Welcome restaurant and take-away.

“We are keeping things going and will continue to serve people in the Stranmillis area as we have been for many years. Those businesses there are still going strong.”

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