DRAM’s New Year Gongs

January 10th, 2017 | Posted in: Features

Every year our Editor Susan Young takes a look at the exploits of people and the companies in the trade to award DRAM’s very own New Year Gongs. Read on to discover our recipients for 2016 – a truly eventful year for the Scottish on-trade.


Oli Norman, one of the guys behind pubs such as Sloan’s, Brel and the newly acquired Griffin, and the man behind Itison, was last year’s Last Man Standing at the Hospitality Industry Trust annual dinner which meant that he had to do a challenge – he opted for a cycle ride that lasted a few hundred miles… and he did it just before he re-opened the Griffin. During his cycle ride, which he did with his brother Ben, he bumped into Nicola Sturgeon… only Oli could manage that PR Coup, and I don’t mean that he ran her over!


This year this goes to David Wither – having arrived at the DRAM Awards with Kevin Doyle he discovered he had left his phone in the taxi… a quick phone call to the driver and it was luckily retrieved. Then during the course of the evening he left it down… once again it was retrieved. But lastly on the way home, having shared a car with Graeme Arnott, he managed to swap evening jackets with him… and didn’t realise until the car had moved away from his house leaving him phoneless and keyless. So he had to clamber over a gate and wake his wife up!



James and Louise Rusk (above) are ‘awesome’. A great couple who have opened their third venue the Spanish Butcher and have renamed their company, Rusk & Rusk. Their enthusiasm and energy is a real tonic. There is nothing laid-back about this dynamic duo and I look forward to seeing their business develop even further. As James would say “Awesome!”


This goes to Billy Lowe, or perhaps it should go to his pals… since Hibs won the Scottish Cup, Billy has taken every opportunity to press the matter home. He even had baubles on his Xmas tree celebrating the fact, and has just about bought out all the replica trophies, not to mention dog bowls! I’m surprised he didn’t spend the remainder of last year on the “Persevered Scottish Cup Trophy Tour”… or maybe he was behind it! I’ve never seen a man so happy. But he is also celebrating the fact that after a tiny wee hiatus he is now back in the trade having bought The Links and Malones last year.


It came as a surprise to a few folk that I know when it was announced that Kenny MacAskill, former Justice Minister, has now taken up a post on the Scottish Licensed Trade Association’s External Committee… this is the man who was instrumental in driving through (excuse the pun) the drink driving legislation, which has probably done more harm to the trade than any other legislation brought in during the last 20 years. Now that he is no longer banging a political drum he’s now reverted to supporting the opposition – the trade itself. I’m sure his advice to licensees in rural pubs, who have suffered the most, will be interesting.


Last year I wasn’t far off with my chicken prediction and since then various chicken venues including the fab one from Michael Bergson Buck’s Bar, have opened. But this year I am thinking it is Apps… to make your life easier that is the latest trend. Kiltr has launched an app which allows you to offer your customers free wi-fi, the payback is that you can sell advertising spaces to brands, which customers have to flick through before they get into the free wi-fi – a win-win. And you control the content you put on the app. Meanwhile, Ross Gourlay at Glencrest has developed one called TipMyServer which, in summary, is an app that allows a dinner or customer to give a tip direct to their server or servers or any other registered staff member in any environment such as restaurants, pubs, clubs, hotels etc via the app.


This goes to Niall Hansard of TLT – the licensing lawyer did what no other licensing lawyer in Scotland has ever done – 6 days – 6 licensing boards, and a two-day appeal to boot. Talk about dedication!


When the team from Gallery 48 came to the Scottish Bar and Pub Awards – owner MacKay brought along his father who was also in the licensed trade. And he brought him up to stage when they won the Caledonian Brewery Award for Innovation. He was as proud as punch and even managed a pose with our dancers… lovely.


Simon Magnus departed for Australia with his hubby Tama to start a new life. Simon who is very well known in the trade was latterly at The Blythswood, but prior to that, he was at Gleneagles, The Hilton and Oran Mor. Our loss is Brisbane’s gain. Good luck to him and hubby. And hope to catch up with him at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games next year.


This definitely goes to Euan Bain and Tommy McMillan – the two of them turned wearing almost identical outfits on a night out last year… from the colour of their shoes to their tweed waistcoats. The rest of us felt under-dressed, we obviously missed the memo!


As anyone who knows Donald Macleod of Holdfast will tell you … he is mad about music. And late last year he was part of the consortium that won the Rock Radio franchise. So no doubt we will hear a lot more about him this year, but I thought this funniest story Donald told this year was about his charity cycle ride around the islands in his lycra… the most embarrassing part of the whole trip was from where he got off the train with his bike and had to cycle to his office! To the amusement of everyone that saw him.


There must have been about three months last year when Steve Graham of Manorview was mentioned to me just about every day! I thought he was employing a personal PR guru. But joking aside, he and his team, are certainly going for it and not just in a business sense Manorview opened Boclair House last year, and it has beefed up its management team, but boss Steve also likes a sporting challenge whether cycling to Paris in 24 hours from London (non-stop) or competing in Triathlons… I shudder to think what his challenge for this year will be!


This year I think this must go to me… not only did I stand up Harry Hood for lunch (although I was ill), but I managed to go to Torphichen instead of Mid Calder to see Iain Pert (although to be fair his former pub was the Torphichen Inn, it just wasn’t in Torphichen, and last but not least I amused the folk at Meldrum House greatly when I mistook their memory card for a fridge magnet! There are a hundred and other things… as my team will tell you, but we don’t fortunately, have space!

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Susan Young
Susan Young is a journalist who has spent the last 20 years editing the DRAM. Prior to that, she spent a decade working in Public Relations and Events dealing with clients as diverse as Cumbernauld Development Agency and James Burrough Distillers. Her knowledge of the Scottish licensed trade is extensive and she also instigated the first ever Scottish licensed trade awards which have evolved into the Scottish Bar and Pub Awards.


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