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Last year Scotland benefited from the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup, and there was a lot of buzz around the Referendum. How did 2015 compare Susan Young rounds up 2015, with her take on the stand out moments, and the people who impressed her.

Stand out moments
Last year it definitely was The Commonwealth Games and The Ryder Cup and the morning of the referendum result, this year the stand out day was George Clooney in Edinburgh. He visited Social Bite, lunched at Tigerlily and stayed at The George, and the pictures were beamed throughout the world. It was a great piece of positive PR for Scotland.

The biggest impact on the trade
The new drink-driving limit was introduced last December, and over the last 12 months it’s introduction has done more to drive people into their homes to drink, than any other legislation to date. But it is here to stay, and this coming year, now that it is bedded in, licensees will be able to to get a better indication of how the trade is likely to perform over the next few years by comparing year on year figures.

Wow Factor
There has been no let down in the advancement of the licensed trade in the shape of new openings and refurbishments over the last year. In November alone Buzzworks opened The Mill House in Stewarton; Raymond Codono – The Bavaria Brauhaus; Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta – The Atlantic; Starwood opened The Printing Press and Glendola, Frankenstein’s Beir Keller. Other notable new bars have been OX184 from FullerThomson; The Jolly Botanist – Iain Pert and Gordon Gilhooley; The Beer Kitchen – Innis & Gunn; The Doghouse from BrewDog; Caffe Parma – Stefano Giovanazzi; West on the Corner – West Brewery; Copper Blossom – Speratus Group; The Trading House – New World Trading Company… and on and on. Wow factor would be a toss up between up between Tigerlily and The Atlantic… although the others look great too. The amount spent above would be conservative £5m… which has a knock-on effect on jobs throughout Scotland from shopfitters, to joiners, designers to upholsterers.

Company News
Tennent’s owners C&C were in the news last year for buying Wallaces, this year they have been in the news again most notably because most of the Wallaces team have now left – from Brian Calder to Chris Cosh and Matt Munro. New MD Alastair Campbell comes from the travel business, but his travelling these days is out to see the movers and the shakers in the licensed trade.

There wasn’t a stand out launch for me in 2015 but I have to say I get more information from whisky companies with regard to their brands than any other sector of the drinks industry, including beer. Whisky brands are being innovative, are constantly evolving and are working flat out to encourage consumers. I would still like to see more being done to encourage newcomers to the category, there’s a lot done to encourage existing drinkers to keep on drinking… to me we are missing a trick when it come blends. We published our Guide to Scotland’s Best Whisky Bars a few months ago, and they have gone like hotcakes, we even put them into some hotels with the concierge’s grabbing them with both hands. They told us that people are always asking where to go and drink whisky. Now they know.

Biggest pay packet
This might appear next month too when I do my New Year gongs… Billy Lowe of Saltire Taverns again successfully sold out to Glendola. The company bought his Frankenstein venues in Glasgow and Edinburgh a few years ago, and in 2015 it did a deal to buy Le Monde and Angel’s Share. Despite the fact that he is enjoying time on the golf course (trying to improve his handicap!)
He is a real success story. They say a business is only worth what someone is prepared to pay, but many licensees hang on to their estates for too long. The real expertise is knowing when to sell and certainly Billy has that down to a fine art.

Beer – in all its glory
First of all it was craft beer, then it was bars and pubs that served craft beer and now along comes beer pubs. Two opened this month in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh – the thirst for beer is showing no signs of being quenched. The latest Beer Barometer figures from the British Beer & Pub Association show that UK beer sales rebounded strongly in quarter three, with a 3.9% improvement on the same quarter in 2014.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and talking with Jeff Stewart at the Broughty Ferry Hotel. He was a real character, one of a kind. As was Stewart Spence of The Marcliffe in Aberdeen. Another interviewee who I also enjoyed spending time with was Angela Vickers the Chief Executive of Apex Hotels. I enjoy meeting people and there is not a person that I’ve interviewed this year, that I haven’t learned from. As I said to one of my colleagues recently, there is nothing more motivating than talking to people who are passionate about what they do.

Category: Features
Tags: Beer, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hotel, Pub, Restaurant, wine