Sue Says: April 2017

April 9th, 2017 | Posted in: Features

It seems like I am now famous for championing dogs – in pubs, hotels – you name it – if you could just see the volume of press releases that I now get. There is a new dog hotel in Linlithgow called the Dogchester, while beer companies are bring out beers for dogs. BeerHawk have the attractively named Bottom Sniffer, a 0% ABV speciality beer for dogs from Woof & Brew, while I understand Snuffle Dog Beer is going down a storm too. I can’t wait to start judging Dog Pub of the Year… or at least my canine companions can’t!

I wouldn’t mind having Neil Morrison as a boss… he runs a staff incentive every year which sees workmates choosing the most deserved employees of the year. This year they were Eilidh Daroch from the Lochside and Rebecca Armstrong from Macgochans who were chosen. They won a trip to Miami. The only downside was boss Neil Morrison travelled with them… (only joking). A great time was had by all.

The recent Scottish Tourism Alliance Conference was a bit of an eye-opener for me. Not least because I, and the other delegates, discovered that in America some hotels are now rating their customers, in the same way that Uber get drivers to give feedback on theirs. I think this could get interesting. Time and time again I hear the licensed trade say that people complained only in order to get something off their bill. This could put an end to that. Apparently some hotels in the States are also offering incentives to encourage good behaviour. I bet right now you are all thinking of customers that fit both scenarios!

So the Prime Minister Theresa May has triggered Article 50, and our First Minister is planning a new Referendum. As one publican said to me “We were facing two years of uncertainty, and now we are facing two years of increased uncertainty! More reason for us all to go to the pub more often! But seriously, nobody knows what is ahead, we are all sailing in unchartered waters and anyone that tells you different must be gazing into their very own crystal ball.

The rating issue, we cover fully in Annabelle Love’s piece on pages 10 and 11, really it is a scandal. The fact that all this energy now has to be utilised to fight these unfair valuations, when in fact the trade needs to focus on their businesses and building them. The Scottish Government claims to support Entrepreneurs – let’s see it. And let’s have some transparency when it comes to how the assessors have come to their conclusions.

Donald MacLeod of The Garage fame has just purchased, at auction, the original Trainspotting Bar and sofa. Mind you he needed a seat after buying two of its iconic panels too, as there was a bit of bidding war. Donald told me “There was a publican in the North East bidding too, which really pushed the price up. The good news is that folk are already calling me trying to rent the bar, but I’ll be putting it to good use in The Garage during Freshers Week and for special occasions.” The mind boggles!

People ask me what I love most about this business and I always tell them the same thing…the people. Interviewing people who are passionate about what they do always is invigorating. This month was no different. Our licensee interviewee Giovanna Eusebi was a real pleasure to talk to. She is passionate about her business and about people. I also caught up with Calum Ross, the new GM at the Hilton Glasgow, for our new magazine Hotel Scotland. He too is a dynamo and focussed on excellence. He brings a wealth of experience to his new role. Of course there were a few catch up meetings too with Steve Graham of Manorview – I don’t know where he gets his energy. He has no sooner finished one project than his company is onto the next! The same goes for Billy Lowe – it’s been a long time since I have heard him so enthusiastic about the trade. It was also good to meet up with Hans Rissman and his wife Lydia. Congratulations to the two of them on their new hotel The Strathaven in Strathaven. I look forward to seeing its progress.

Iain Pert of PG Taverns has written to Lasse Burmester at the Mergers at Competition and Markets Authority backing Star Pubs & Bars acquisition of 1900 Punch Pubs. He believes it is great news for the industry, Punch licensees and pub goers. Iain, who currently leases a number of pubs from Star Pubs & Bars says in his letter, “We have a strong working relationship with Star and have seen real improvements over recent years to the range of business support they offer. Many of us have worked closely with Star on major investments which have transformed pubs that had seen better days into vibrant community hubs bringing in more customers and helping us grow our businesses together.” It’s good to get another side of the story with both the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and CAMRA looking on the deal negatively. See his full letter online at

You have heard the story about how Victor Kiam, the man who said he liked Remington razors so much that he bought the company, well how about the former Belhaven employees Frank Cogan and Martin Mackay, of Bozzco Inns, who like their former boss Jim Young so much that they bought a pub that was named after him… the former JD Wetherspoon pub in Bathgate called The James Young! However a name change I understand is imminent, so no bust of the bold Jim behind the bar. I understand names in the frame include The Stuart Ross and The Bill Hughes. Frank assures me he is only joking!

Good luck to father and daughter team Stephen and Ally Gilmour who have set up a new drinks wholesale company called Triana Drinks. They already have Spanish beer Cruzcampo, Larios gin, Licor 43 liqueur, the Faustino range of Rioja wines and quite a few other brands too. Ally, who has a business management degree is only 21, but has been working in bars since she was 16… and she is the person driving the business. She certainly has got plenty of energy.

And finally my brother owns a advertising and marketing magazine called The Drum… (I know, I know). Anyway, during Ad Week in London recently they took over a bar and ran it as The Drum Arms. Unsurprisingly he took to it like a duck to water!

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