93-95 Academy St, Inverness IV1 1LX
Star Pubs & Bars and operator Billy McAneney have unveiled the new-look Blackfriars, Inverness, following a record £1.36M spend from the Heineken-owned pub estate business in Scotland. The investment, enabled by a £422,606 grant from The Inverness Townscape Heritage Project, likewise created 20 jobs.
The venue is Billy McAneney’s fourth site with Star and the twelfth hospitality business in which he has an interest and the extensive refurbishment has sympathetically restored the outside of the Category B listed 18th-century building.
Matt Dyson, Star Pubs and Bars investment manager, told DRAM, “We put in £689K, Inverness Townscape Heritage Project invested around £422K and Billy McAneney put up £250K. This was a big spend and every single you can think of in this building has been worked on.
“Starting from the top, we put on a new roof and chimneys, which was slightly challenging given the Inverness weather and so it took longer than anticipated. Then we transformed what were three disused flats on the first floor into nine boutique letting rooms and they have all been fully kitted out and finished to a high spec. Each has its own individual décor and are named after famous Inverness people and places.
“All of the old windows have been replaced with double-glazing, and all the internal walls were taken back to the original stonework for that heritage look, plus we updated it with the tiles and booths and wall coverings and lighting. We’ve given the pub a striking, contemporary brasserie feel, with stripped floors, exposed brickwork and vibrant
“Blackfriars has a fully functioning catering kitchen and will have a strong food offering. The pub’s exterior was also taken back to its original stonework, plus we invested in a new sign, plants and lighting.”
Star Pubs & Bars operations director for Scotland, Brian Davidson, added “Blackfriars is a historic building and needed a vast amount of work to restore it properly. The grant from The Inverness Townscape Heritage Project has made the work economically viable and helped us enable Billy to develop a multi-income stream business and a premium venue that does justice to the building. Billy is highly experienced in all areas of the hospitality sector. It has been fantastic to work with him on this project and bring Blackfriars back to life.”
To underline Blackfriars’ commitment to local produce, in the spring Billy McAneney is planning to install beehives and a greenhouse with a hydroponic system on a flat roof to provide honey, herbs and edible flowers for the pub’s cocktails and kitchen.
Said Billy, “Inverness continues to go from strength to strength as a city and a holiday destination. It’s exciting to be part of its renaissance. We’ve tried to bring something different to Inverness in terms of design as well as to celebrate the area’s food and drink. Our aim has been to create a place that both locals and visitors enjoy and that caters for all occasions, whether it’s a light lunch, celebration dinner, or drinks or a coffee with friends.”
Speyside Property Services did the building work and shopfitting, and The Davidson Baxter Partnership were the architects, with signs by SR Signs.
Design highlights are the corrugated multi-coloured leather chairs and the wooden top tables and their painted cast-iron supports. The olive green walls set a calming tone against the pops of colour from those chairs and the bright cluster of lights and foliage above the bar. The ground floor also benefits from a lot of natural light streaming in through huge windows. The gun-metal grey ceiling also works really well with the green walls, plus some of the walls have also been treated to a lick of grey paint.
There are also lots of traditional nods, like the row of what look to be pew-like seating and those exposed stone walls too of course, plus hanging on the walls are black and white pictures of Inverness.
The boutique rooms upstairs will also be a popular place to stay for visitors to the city because they’re comfortable, stylish and just have the right amount of quirkiness.
I was impressed with what Star has delivered here and considering this property was built around 1793 it feels like it’s in a safe pair of hands with Star Pubs & Bars and Billy McAneney as custodians. Roll on the next phase of the project and that rooftop greenhouse. n