Rising from the flood

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Under water - Old Brid_optThe Old Bridge Inn at Aviemore re-opened a few weeks ago after being closed since Christmas due to damage caused by Storm Desmond. For the couple who run the pub – Kim and partner Owen Caldwell – it was a huge blow, not least because they were three weeks into a dream holiday to Australia! But whether it was serendipity or just a coincidence but before leaving Aviemore Kim had enrolled on an interior design course, and during her holiday, she had been dreaming up ideas for the pub.  So when the call came through to say that the pub was under water… Kim although shocked also had the sneaking impression that it was “meant to be.”
IMG_6718_optThe couple who moved to the Aviemore area in 2009 due to their love of the outdoor and the area, had initially gone into business at the Old Bridge Inn with two other partners. The foursome believed that live music and good food would breathe new life into the Bridge Inn. Says Owen, “We didn’t stay as a foursome for too long, but as one of our partners had formerly put on a music festival locally, we had got to know a lot of the musicians, so when we started operating it ourselves we were well placed to continue providing live music and good food. We have a very varied clientele – the younger folk like the music, and families dine here on special occasions.” Says Kim, “Sometimes you can see three generations around the same table.”
The couple had spent six years planning their trip to Australia, and when they heard the news it was as Kim explains, “A bit of an emotional rollercoaster.” However, the silver lining was that she got to implement some changes to the design of the pub.
On their return to Aviemore, they quickly realised that the pub was going to be closed for a while. Owen explains, “I suppose we rode our luck for 6 years without a flood, so it was almost inevitable at some point we would pay the price for the beautiful riverside setting we enjoy. What we couldn’t ever have imagined is the scale of the damage. How it gets into – and destroys -everything. As the water subsided the flood had clearly been devastating for us. All kitchen equipment, flooring, walls, bar  – almost anything else you can think of was ruined and needed to be replaced. It was just before Christmas, our busiest time of the year. Our landlord wanted us to open, but the damp pervaded everything. Within weeks of the flood, mould was growing. The insurance company was quick at agreeing to pay out, but the detail of what we were covered for was a bit more difficult as was actually getting the funds released. We had to dip into our savings to keep us going. Hogmanay is the biggest night of the year for us. But not just for us for our customers too, who were left with nowhere to go. Says Kim, “We too spent our first new year in in years.”
OBI stripped back-3_optKim continues, “We had to  totally rebuild the interior. It was exciting but it was also stressful. It took us five months – folk say it must have been great to have had a five-month holiday, but actually it was just the opposite. The first two months we spent learning everything we could about flood defences. We had to flood proof the pub in order to get new insurance. “
Says Owen, “We worked our way through a jungle of red tape, learning about flood-defences to the point we could confidently build a paper pub at the bottom of Loch Morlich!
“The Inn has now been flood proofed, with a flood wall, various drain mechanisms put in place and water proof materials used in all the repairs. So no more carpet, everything had to be wipeable, and we needed to be able to move the furniture out of harm’s way. However, we didn’t want to change too much because people see it as their pub and we wanted some continuity. So in the pub area we have kept it very similar, but we have changed the restaurant.”
IMG_6720_optThe Old Bridge Inn has three distinct areas – the lounge bar which is to the right as you come in, the bar itself which is a good space for drinking and on the left there is the restaurant.
Says Kim, “In the bar we’ve put wood panelling on the walls, and we have insulated them too. There is no heating in the bar area apart from a new wood burning stove.
The bar is Victorian in style with the wood panelling, and the open fire was replaced. Says Kim, “It was just inefficient.” But I wanted to keep the fireplace. So we have put an art Victorian-style hearth and used green tiles, and the fireplace itself has an art-deco feel. We wanted an informal living room vibe. It’s very much Victorian public bar meets cosy living room. The pub is only 30 years old but it has been styled as older. And we have continued this with an old hunting lodge style. Although we didn’t want stag heads all over the place, we have got some. We also kept the open beams and we have put lovely fairy lights on them.”
The bar is traditional but the furniture has a modern feel, says Kim, “Select Contract Furniture made the free standing banquettes, and they did an amazing job. They were due to arrive three weeks after we opened but they really pulled it out of the bag and we got them a couple of days before opening. I gave the man a bear hug!
She continues, “The fact that the banquettes are freestanding means that we can lift them and put them on top of the tables if there is any danger of flooding. They are upholstered in a faux antique looking soft suede. Initially, we had looked at faux leather but we thought the suede was warmer.
Luckily when it came to the bar we were able to source second-hand tables and chairs (not the pews though) from a nearby business that closed down. We used Haig Blue on the walls, and on the floors wood effect porcelain tiles. We used a herringbone design into the restaurant”
Says Owen, “We have put in  a whole new kitchen, and a whole new bar. The head chef helped plan the kitchen and it is now much more efficient. For example, we have put in induction hobs, which has meant we have been able to increase our covers to 100. The insurance covered like-for-like so we have put in a substantial amount of our own money to make all the improvements.
Owen planned the infrastructure of the bar itself. He explains, “Previously it had been a plywood shell, there was no shelving, and it had a really basic structure. It was made for low volumes, and we had struggled with it over the last few years. Now we have stainless steel shelving, and we have moved the sink from the cellar to the bar. We have put in a completely new bar of solid oak, created by local joiner Ben who was great. He is also a good friend and has a creative edge. He did all the wood panelling too” Says Owen, “I was determined to have a lip on the bar, and we also raised it up a bit so that we could get stuff on the other side.”
Kim adds, “The pub always had a good feel about it, and we were scared we would lose the ambience. But I think we have created a bar with the same vibe.
The Dining room is the area which has been really transformed. It was formerly a terracotta tiled conservatory with rather uncomfortable furniture. Now it is a stylish, airy yet quirky restaurant.
Says Owen, “ We wanted to be able to integrate the restaurant more with the bar and lounge. And when we started the refurbishment we found another door to the  restaurant and opened it back up. This means we now have a separate entrance and when we have music on we can now do ticketed entry. The dining area had a pitched roof and a wee flat roof and we split these separate areas – in the smaller flat roof area we used Timorous Beastie wallpaper to give it its own character while in the main area, with its pitched roof, along the back wall we created a feature with charred wood panelling which Kim did herself.”
She explains, ‘I wanted the area to have a ski chalet feel – and I love black – it makes the pictures stand out. We used a mixture of old and new lights, sourcing the old church lights from Glasgow Architectural Salvage. We sourced lots of eclectic pieces from the reindeeIMG_6708_optr skin to gilt mirrors and antlers that were not mounted, for the restaurant, and we are still adding bits and pieces.
Says Kim, “People come in and say ‘we love it. We are glad you haven’t changed it too much.’ There had to be a balance, and we also had strict budgets. It’s like opening a new business but with an existing and familiar clientele. It’s a lucky position to be in.
Owen concludes,‘We would mention the phenomenal support we got from locals and our customers from far and wide, ‘but a special thanks has to go to the staff we retained throughout, who have worked tirelessly to get us back open.  How much people really care about the Inn has been really moving and has kept us going during some pretty bleak times.’

Category: Editors' Picks, Uncategorized archive
Tags: Aviemore, Bar, flood, kim, Loch Morlich, Owen Caldwell, Pub, The Old Bridge Inn