DRAM’s New Year Gongs!

January 23rd, 2018 | Posted in: Editors' Picks,Features,People

This month Susan Young presents her annual gongs to people who have made her sit up and take notice this year… find out who caught her eye!



It’s not that easy for me getting away from work… but a weekend in Broughty Ferry seemed like a good option and of course a wee visit to the Anchor is obligatory! Now I was expecting to catch up with owner Jeff Stewart (right) but what I wasn’t expecting was to be ambushed by the Bannockburn brigade… John McCue (left) of the Tartan Arms and his entourage – he had coincidentally organised a pub day out to Broughty Ferry and brought along former Bay City Roller Alan Longmuir as well. Let’s just say it made for an interesting and fun afternoon.


James Mortimer

I never realised that James Mortimer of Lynnet Leisure had a hidden talent… dancing. But I saw it for myself at a birthday party last year, when he waltzed the light fantastic to a dance track. So he is this year’s recipient of the Gong Dancing gong! I can hear Strictly beckoning!




Ken, Kenny, Kenneth… McGowan retired from Star Pubs & Bars last year after a long tenure with the company but as I am sure you agree he is far too young to hang up his socks. So I would imagine he, after a few months spent getting fit, playing golf and travelling, might be in the mood for some consultancy work in 2018. He has, he tells me, being doing some coaching and mentoring, and not just in the art of enjoying a pint!


Well, we all know that I like to talk, but when Malcolm Simpson (SimpsInns) and I met up recently – we managed to extend our lunch into the early evening, which is my record this year. I’m not sure if it is Malcolm’s… but nevertheless, he gets my Long Lunch Gong – because over a very enjoyable lunch we put the world to rights and I also got a great interview for our Hotel magazine.


Last month Stephen McGowan, partner and head of licensing (Scotland) at TLT, received a specialist accreditation from the Law Society of Scotland in liquor licensing law in recognition of his extensive and wide-reaching skills and experience in this area. He is the first to be accredited since 2011 and at 38 is the youngest solicitor ever to be accredited for this specialism – only another seven licensing lawyers have it. The news follows Stephen being elevated to ‘Leading Individual’ in the independent legal directory Legal 500 and retaining Band 1 status in Chambers and Partners this year. He is also in the running for the “Lawyer of the Year Award”… he would get our vote!


Our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon finally got her minimum pricing initiative on the statute books after the highest court in the land agreed it was legal. So now, only five years after it was first mooted, Minimum Unit Pricing is set to be introduced at 50p per unit. It will come into effect from May.


Beards are not just for the young hipsters but the slightly older hipsters too and Malcolm Binnie is certainly flying the flag! Here’s hoping the Falkirk restaurateur, who is rolling out his Mexican Habaneros brand, doesn’t disappear under the weight of it!



Mario Gizzi is one of the hardest working people I know. I can’t remember who said, “I never dreamed of success. I worked for it.” But Mario could have written it! He and business partner Tony Conetta, another hard worker, opened The Citizen this year, but other ongoing plans include a 200 seater restaurant in Edinburgh and an aparthotel in Glasgow to add to their growing business empire which includes the DiMaggio and Cafe Andaluz chain of restaurants, as well as Barolo, Anchor Line and The Atlantic. But that’s not all by a long chalk, as well as various property interests they are also involved in several ventures with Paul Sloan and have just bought a property in Arrochar. With all that in mind, you would think that the duo would not be as visible in their premises – but that is far from the case. You are likely to see, one or both of them, in and around their venues – talking to their customers and ensuring guests have a good experience. I totally take my hat off to them.


Castle Leisure Group (CLG) invested more than £2m turning the basement of the old Scotsman building into Brewhemia a really phenomenal space. The multi-faceted venue which covers a massive 29,000 square feet, which makes it the largest venue in Edinburgh, incorporates German, Czech, Italian, French and Scottish influences. It was probably the most talked about venue all year. – it most definitely deserved the Wow Gong!


If you have met Mark Thomson of Wm Grant you will know exactly what I mean. Glenfiddich’s brand champion knows exactly how to turn on the charm. Whether he is introducing new bartenders to whisky or speaking to Glenfiddich customers, whether on stage or on social media…he is smoothness personified. Since his return to Scotland he has certainly made an impact… watch out Ken Lindsay of Chivas – you’ve got competition!


This has to go to Emma Brown of Guide Dogs for the Blind – who sent me a request to run an article in one of my magazines. She promotes access for guide dog owners to services, such as hotels, restaurants and pubs, as unfortunately there are still reports of people being turned away because of their guide dog. She sent me the request the same week I managed to detach my retina… I know just how it feels to be partially sighted (albeit only for a month) and I can tell you it wasn’t much fun.


This has to go to Dog Friendly Pubs. We had more votes for Dog Friendly Pub of the Year than for any other category and there was even fierce competition when we ask for volunteer doggie judges. The winning pub was Saint Luke’s & The Winged Ox. But there is hardly a week that goes by when a pub owner doesn’t let me know that they are dog friendly.


This goes to the receptionist at Inverhouse Distillers who can rhyme off the company’s full product range.

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