Potty about Pop-Ups

August 14th, 2018 | Posted in: Editors' Picks,Features

The world’s gone pop-up potty in the last few years – aka the (so-called) temporary bar. But to what extent are pop-ups a threat to permanent pubs? How easy is it for you to apply for a pop-up licence? What are the benefits? Is it worth you hosting a pop-up in a ‘dead’ space within your premises? Is this a trend that’s likely to pop off anytime soon? So many questions. DRAM has the answers.

Bars, opera, dining, cinema – you name it there’s a pop-up for it and with such an appetite for temporary bars, you might want to think about applying for a licence (pop-ups come under the occasional licence umbrella, incidentally) because it’s a great way to broaden your sales base and boost those profits and advertise your business at a festival, or any event really. And as a great marketing gateway it also puts you in front of new customers. A pop-up can also help anybody with a good idea bring it to market without the risk that accompanies a hefty investment on a premises.

Kyle Steel runs the successful Dockyard Social in Glasgow’s west end, a host venue to 12 pop-ups, making him rather an expert on the subject. We asked him for his potted history and what he considered to be the pros and cons of operating a pop-up. He said, “We started out with a pop-up called ‘Section 33’ in Glasgow almost four years to the day. Then we did a week-long takeover of the old Govanhill baths in Glasgow. Then we went on to do another 8 to 10 pop-ups.”

He continued, “Some of the pros are that you’re not in a fixed location so you can be a lot more fluid when it comes to trends by targeting different customers and demographics. The cons are it can be quite difficult to get a licence, although, having said that, licensing at Glasgow City Council is extremely supportive of innovative operators, and I get the sense that they want a level of culture and innovation in hospitality and tourist industry. As regards a permanent licence vs. the occasional licence, you need to be more diligent by knowing every part of the beast. You’re having to constantly learn new fire exits and brief team on new surroundings. For example, a bar and restaurant has a soft opening of two weeks whereas with a pop-up all you maybe have is 45 minutes.”

The Dockyard Social has since transitioned from purely pop-ups to its fixed location with the 12 pop-up spaces it offers today, a response to growing demand. “We had a lot of requests from lots different styles of business,” said Kyle. So what about opportunities for licensees? “I’d say that it’s good for licensees to dip their toes in and test the water. Limited numbers drive exclusivity if the offering is good. It’s great for exposure full stop.” said Kyle.

So, with permanent hosting spaces, it looks like pop-ups aren’t just a flash in the pan, plus this ‘pop-up paradox’ isn’t confined to Glasgow either.

Pop-Up Geeks is a successful pop-up business making waves in Edinburgh. Unlike Kyle Steel’s operation, obtaining a licence wasn’t a consideration for owner Rachael Carpenter. She said, “We’ve popped up in places that already have a licence, like when we did Blood and Wine, our Game of Thrones inspired pop-up for instance, we were popping up in other bars that already had a basement space. The pros to this was no need for a licence, with the cons being that we were restricted by the bar’s opening hours.”

But, as Rachael explained, their business model has also evolved. “We’re now a bit of a pop-up paradox in that we have just taken over the lease on a venue on East Market Street which was already licensed – so we’re changing the theme every three months,” she said.

And if you’re a licensee that is looking to host a pop-up, getting some young entrepreneurs that are passionate about their business popping up on your premises is a great way to re-vitalise your existing business and trade Said Rachael, “We were lucky enough to get a good following after our Game of Thrones pop-up, and this brought a lot trade to the bar as well.”

We also asked Meryl Gilbert from Glasgow’s SWG3 if pop-ups were here to stay and she said. “The term has been played with and overused plus it now doesn’t really fit what pop-ups have become. We now have more residencies in a permanent venue that give people the freedom to be experimental.”

So there really are loads of opportunities for you to host a pop-up or pop-up yourself as an extension of your business, and it seems that there’s room for all-comers at this pop-up party, especially if you are looking for a fresh challenge.

Other pop-ups include Auchentoshan, currently operating a whisky pop in Glasgow, and Sualdo’s next to Chinaskis in the city, and owner Fergus McVicar is also considering making it a permanent pop-up site with an ever-changing offering. And if you’re looking for some creative inspiration, over the pond in Chicago (and when America sneezes the UK usually always catches the cold), they seem to go to town on themed pop-ups, like one based on the American version of TV show, The Office, with themed drinks and an office Olympics for its customers.

Jason Caddy


Whitbread announces £500m share buyback programme

Thu 17th January 2019

Whitbread investors are to share in the Coca-Cola deal with a £500 million share buyback programme after the sale of Costa for £3.9 billio... Read more.

Quiet Man Taverns appoint first executive head chef

Wed 16th January 2019

An Edinburgh-based pub group has appointed the award-winning William Thomson as its first group executive head chef.... Read more.

Edinburgh Whisky Academy launches Introduction to Whisky Certificate

Tue 15th January 2019

The Edinburgh Whisky Academy, which is fully accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), has launched their first tier of e... Read more.

Tue 15th January 2019

Belhaven owner Greene King has appointed Nick Mackenzie as its new chief executive. Mackenzie will join the company on 1 May, succeeding Roo... Read more.

Oli Norman buys Stephen White out

Tue 15th January 2019

Oli Norman has taken full control of the seven-strong pub business that he and Stephen White built. ... Read more.

Oran Mor unveils Tam O’Shanter paintings

Tue 15th January 2019

Glasgow’s Oran Mor has unveiled 10 new paintings by Scottish artist Nichol Wheatley depicting the most memorable scenes from Tam OR... Read more.

Bridge of Don bar’s customers raise £650 for local neighbourhood park

Mon 14th January 2019

Customers at The Brig Inn on Aberdeen’s Balgownie Road have raised £650 for their local neighbourhood park (Friends of Seaton Park)... Read more.

Makeover for Edinburgh’s Scottish Cafe & Restaurant

Thu 10th January 2019

Edinburgh’s Scottish Cafe & Restaurant has closed for a major redevelopment, as part of the £22m National Galleries of Scotland Collecti... Read more.

Highland Pubs buck UK-wide closure trend

Tue 8th January 2019

Here's a reason for licensees to be cheerful in what might be an otherwise challenging month, well those in the far north of Scotland at any... Read more.

Two hospitality-related MBEs for Scots in 2019 New Year Honours

Tue 8th January 2019

More than 100 Scots have been included on the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2019, including two MBEs for hospitality-related services.... Read more.

Highland family go from field to fork

Tue 8th January 2019

The Coach House Bar and Restaurant in Dornoch has been acquired by husband and wife team Tommy and Audrey Mackay in a reported six-figure de... Read more.

HATS OFF TO HI-HAT TRIO

Tue 8th January 2019

Business partners Les Ross, Lewis Boddy and Mark Klose have opened a new late-night venue in Dumfries called The Hi-Hat, in the upper floor ... Read more.

Fife Arms Hotel gets it down to a fine art

Tue 8th January 2019

The 46-bedroom Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar is now officially open, and leading the team is General Manager, Federica Bertolini, who joined fr... Read more.

Design focus: Jax Bar-Eatery

Tue 8th January 2019

The 80s revival shows no signs of hanging up its legwarmers if the design of Jax Bar-Eatery in Glasgow’s Princes Square is any gauge. Thin... Read more.

Design focus: Bertie’s

Tue 8th January 2019

A neon sign displaying the legend ‘Fry Me to the Moon’ is one of many wonderfully quirky touches in Bertie’s – the Vittoria Group’... Read more.

Licensee interview: Marco Arcari and Mario Arcari

Tue 8th January 2019

Even sitting down for a coffee with father and son team Marco Arcari, 51, and Mario Arcari, 28, screams quality. It’s beautifully presente... Read more.

Greene King reports like-for-likes up 10.9% over Christmas fortnight

Tue 8th January 2019

Belhaven owner Greene King has reported like-for-like sales over the two weeks to Christmas were up 10.9%. After 36 weeks of its financial y... Read more.

Sales of Buckfast hit record high

Mon 7th January 2019

Sales of Buckfast have hit a record high with further growth expected this year following the introduction of minimum pricing in Scotland.... Read more.

AB InBev makes changes to UK and Ireland senior management team

Mon 7th January 2019

Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev) has reshuffled its UK and Ireland senior management team as part of organisational changes designed to captu... Read more.

TURNBERRY CHEF SCOOPS SILVER GONG AT CULINARY WORLD CUP

Mon 7th January 2019

A team of top Scottish chefs including Trump Turnberry’s pastry chef, Andrew MacKay (pictured), has served up a winning menu at the Viller... Read more.