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.

Goodbye Parlour, Hello Nauticus

Wed 15th August 2018

Kyle Jamieson and Iain McPherson have taken over the Admiral Taverns tenancy at The Nauticus in Leith. Formerly known as the Parlour, the na... Read more.

Design Focus: Hawksmoor, Edinburgh

Tue 14th August 2018

I thought Hawksmoor sounded like the name of a mythical bird of prey until I Googled it and discovered that it’s actually the surname ... Read more.

Star Pubs & Bars to invest over half a million on Scottish Pub exteriors

Tue 14th August 2018

Twenty Scottish Pubs in the Star Pubs & Bars are set to get revamped exteriors as part of a £550,000 investment in the estate this yea... Read more.

A bar for all seasons

Tue 14th August 2018

In the wake of the recent heatwave, weather-themed bar The Barologist doesn’t have a rain machine unfortunately, but it does have a snow m... Read more.

It’s a ‘yes’ for YOTEL

Tue 14th August 2018

YOTEL is to open its second hotel in Scotland and its fifth in the UK in November 2019. The new YOTEL Glasgow will see the Westergate buildi... Read more.

New £3M restaurant for Edinburgh’s Victoria Street

Tue 14th August 2018

Work is underway on the Vittoria Group’s new £3M, 11,000 sq.ft, 270-cover restaurant on Victoria Street in Edinburgh’s Old Town... Read more.

Potty about Pop-Ups

Tue 14th August 2018

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 perm... Read more.

Design Focus: Bracken, Erskine

Tue 14th August 2018

Bracken is a fern that spreads pretty quickly in woods and on hills, and one quick swatch around the stowed out SKB Inns’ refurbished ... Read more.

Design Focus: VESTA, Edinburgh

Mon 13th August 2018

David Hall brings his professional touch to new bar and restaurant, VESTA, on Edinburgh’s Queensferry Street, honed from years leading... Read more.

Name of new Calton Hill restaurant revealed

Mon 13th August 2018

Dale Mailley, chef director of The Gardener’s Cottage, has revealed the name for his third Edinburgh restaurant will be The Lookout by Gar... Read more.

Scottish distillery openings continue to rise

Mon 13th August 2018

The number of new distilleries opening in Scotland continued to climb last year, says a report for accountants UHY Hacker Young Group. The r... Read more.

Crowdfunding campaign number two for Dornoch Distillery expansion

Wed 8th August 2018

Two brothers who recently launched their own gin and whisky distillery are already eyeing an expansion of their business. Phil and Simon Tho... Read more.

Brunswick Hotel set for refurbishment following ‘seven-figure’ sale

Wed 8th August 2018

Stephen Flannery and Michael Johnson (pictured) have sold Glasgow’s Brunswick Hotel to Alam Investments, former owners of The Clifton ... Read more.

Wetherspoon calls on pubs and restaurants to support VAT cut day

Tue 31st July 2018

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin (pictured) is calling on pub and restaurant operators to show their support for a UK-wide Tax Equality Day o... Read more.

St Andrews Brewing Co. exceeds crowdfunding target

Thu 26th July 2018

Fife brewery St Andrews Brewing Co. has exceeded its crowdfunding target of £400k – and is continuing to accept investment to increas... Read more.

Diageo announces preliminary results for year ended 30 June 2018

Thu 26th July 2018

Diageo GB has announced its full year results, with all categories performing well during a ‘good’ year in all. Commenting on Di... Read more.


Fri 13th July 2018

It’s been a top scoring year for the 2018 Scottish Bar and Pub Awards with more than 3,000 nominations for bars and pubs received for ... Read more.


Thu 12th July 2018

McEwan’s has recruited Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh to bare all for a major new campaign in support of Prostate Cancer UK – th... Read more.

Winner crowned in Buzzworks Chef competition

Mon 9th July 2018

Chefs from Buzzworks Holdings just went head to head Buzzworks Cook ‘n’ Crown, with Chef Gabriella Crawford from the Millhouse in Stewar... Read more.

First core range of aged single malts from GlenAllachie Distillery

Mon 9th July 2018

The GlenAllachie Distillery has released its first core range since the distillery was acquired by Billy Walker last year. The release inc... Read more.