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JD Wetherspoon can’t win. When the group was opening in local towns across the land there was negative publicity galore. The fear was that they would put smaller pubs out of business. And now that they are consolidating and selling some pubs on, they are getting criticised for making a business decision to close them. The Vulcan in Coatbridge, The Cross Keys in Peebles and the Alexander Bain in Wick are amongst the pubs
the pubco is moving on.

Arbikie Distillery has announced that it will be donating £1 per bottle for all on-going sales of their AK’s Gin to Motor Neurone Disease, in perpetuity. The business, now owned by the Stirling brothers, took the decision following the death of their father, Kirkwood Stirling, who recently passed away after suffering from MND for a number of years. The family wanted to celebrate his life and provide an on-going legacy by announcing this charitable donation in April-when he would have been celebrating his 84th birthday. Alex Stirling farmed at Lunan Bay for over 60 years and built a sizeable mixed arable farming enterprise that provided an ideal base for the development of one of the world’s few field-to-bottle distilleries.

Son, Iain Stirling says, “It just seemed an appropriate way to keep dad’s memory alive and to give something back”. It certainly is. Recent data from the Altus Group has revealed that almost 1,000 UK pubs closed in 2018 – a rate of 76 pubs a month. The good news is that this is down from138 closures a month during the previous seven years.

Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, comments, “Too many pubs are still closing because of huge tax pressures and went on to reveal that pubs pay on average £140,000 in tax each year and the BBPA are continuing to ask for more help on business rates.”

They are not the only ones. A new Scottish trade initiative called ‘Fair Rates for All’, has launched. Its aim is to come up with a solution to the methodology that Assessors are currently using, which is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. It needs everyone’s support and the trade bodies are backing it. Why not do the maths yourselves – take your current assessment
and work out what the damage would be if it calculated on net profit, or on Square metres or last, but not least, nonrevenue-earning square metres?

I went to Portpatrick for Easter weekend and couldn’t believe how busy it was. The pubs were absolutely packed with people from Ireland and the North East of England. The service was great and the atmosphere was spot on. Kids, and dogs, teenagers and grandparents – all ages, and lots of the four-legged variety too, all of which were well catered for in the town’s pubs. I’m hoping it was as busy in the rest of the country.

This month also saw me head to Crinan to catch up with Frances Ryan, the lady behind The Crinan Hotel, and what a character. She has been at the hotel for the last 50 years and running it on her own for the last five after her husband took ill. He passed away last year. The stories that she told were great fun and I wish I had met her husband Nick – he sounds like an amazing character. Frances is also an acclaimed artist, painting under
the name Frances MacDonald, while her son Ross is also a well-known artist. Meanwhile, her daughter is a former model, who works with her husband running a Madagascar charity. She is also a singer and coaches children, and in her spare time she runs a B&B! What a talented and hard working family!

The interview is in the Hotel Scotland magazine. You can see it
online at

Things are definitely heating up on the awards front – and be sure to
put your posters up – we’ve already had more than a 1,000 people
put their favourite pubs forward. So don’t be shy be sure and get
your team and your customers to vote.

Category: News, Sue Says
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