A year under their belt…what now?

There has certainly been no shortage of great new venues opening in the past year. Nicola Walker spoke to the owners of eight of them to find out how their first year has been and what their plans are for the future!

West Side Tavern – Partick

The West Side Tavern brought a little bit of New York flair to Partick when it opened in December 2022 offering a traditional Italian American style tavern where the food is on par with the drinks offering. Owner, Josh Barr said, “The first year of trading has been great but it’s definitely a work in progress as we continue to establish ourselves. We had a good summer with our beer garden; it may not have been the best weather, but it gave us a real idea of what we can achieve there.

“This year has been brilliant for development – everything, from the cocktails to the pizzas. We now have our inaugural cocktail menu based around New York icons and the customers are loving it. Our biggest challenge was the daytime trade, especially Monday to Wednesday but we have some great ideas to address this which we are hoping to launch next summer.

“We are also looking expand on what we have already been doing events wise. Our Thursday night is music focused with live jazz, plus we have a vinyl jukebox night where people can bring their own vinyl to play. Also, in our beer garden we have a great BBQ hut. We’d love to look at bringing in some great local food pop ups for the Summer.”

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El Santo – Glasgow

El Santo, an immersive Latin American experience, opened in Glasgow in December 2022. The venue owned by Jonathan Doherty’s WORQ Group has had a good first year. Said Claire Freckleton, “We are about to celebrate our first year of El Santo! and I think we have made an impression on Glasgow’s drinking and dining scene with the Latin American concept proving a huge hit with all age groups.

“The ‘hidden’ speakeasy bar within El Santo, El Santito, has also made a name for itself with popular margarita masterclasses. We also have regular live entertainment, including Fiesta dancers, DJs, drag queens and musicians. Plus, we have weekly “open mic” sessions where budding local performers can take to the stage.”

Next year will see El Santo getting a new tequila rack and another door. But the group also has lots planned including an expansion to the Revolver Hotel brand and a boutique hotel in Warrington.

Coco Boho – Edinburgh

Coco Boho, the new late-night destination below Tiger Lily in Edinburgh, opened in July 2023 and has already made its mark on the city. Owned by the Montpelier group, the aim was, “to create a fun, energetic late-night bar that was an alternative to the outdated nightclub model.”

Managing Director Innes Bolt comments, “Things are good. We have established some incredible nights and there is still more to launch in 2024. Christmas is looking strong for us too. The late-night economy is still in recovery, but Scottish operators are developing some great new concepts to combat this.”

One of the great collaborations Coco Boho have already announced is with award winning social enterprise ‘Turn The Tables’ which will bring DJ masterclasses to the venue. This new concept involves learn to DJ whilst enjoying a drink in a fun, relaxed environment.

As for the future, Innes adds, “In 2024, we look forward to more collaborations, more entertainment and more fun for everyone. There’s no need to pre book, just rock up and enjoy!”

Thirty Knots – South Queensferry

Buzzworks opened not one, but two venues in the past year – Thirty Knots in South Queensferry and Scotts Greenock! Both venues are already proving a huge hit . Buzzworks MD, Kenny Blair comments, “We’ve had a great first year and we are now about to open a first-floor events, function and wedding space in Thirty Knots this month. What attracted us to Thirty Knots was the location – iconically Scottish and overlooking the famous railway bridge. It was a traditional building and we wanted to do something quirky in it, but with a menu that appealed to the whole family. It’s also got a big outdoor area that we can capitalise on during the good weather.”

“Scotts Greenock opened in June, and it’s been amazing as well. Out of our 20 venues the view there is just second to none. When you sit there and see the Waverley going by it is truly magical.

“There are challenges in the industry in relation to costs and the economy, however, there will still always be opportunities. You’ve just got to more careful about them in todays climate. We are currently in the legal stages for two new sites and looking carefully at other opportunities for 2024.”

Ramen Dayo – Finnieston

Ramen Dayo launched its Finnieston instalment of the brand in February 2023 bringing its trademark mix of Japanese ramen, sake and cocktails to a new audience. Owner, Paul Beveridge said, “The vision for Finnieston was based on the original vision board for our first venue in Gordon St Lane which was to create a Yokocho style Tokyo alley, with a bustling feel about it. We also had the opportunity in Finnieston to add Izakaya style private booths downstairs, which people love.”

He adds, “Things have been going great! We have an amazing team and we’ve received a good reception from Finnieston locals. It’s been a learning curve working staffing levels around the concert schedules (Hydro, Armadillo and SWG3). At times, a Monday can be as busy as a Saturday, depending on who’s performing. It’s tough though having lots of tables cancel when there’s a last-minute concert cancellation.”

The first year looks to have proved a hit and they are hoping to expand further into the city centre next year promising more news soon!

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Bar 13 – Edinburgh

Bar 13 opened in Edinburgh’s West End in June 2023. The community pub is owned by husband-and-wife team, Rory and Cara Gallagher, who have took their first leap into Scottish hospitality after years of owning successful music bars on the island of Lanzarote. Cara says, “Things have been up and down but we’re definitely heading in the right direction. We’ve built up a great regular clientele and brought in new offerings such as cask ales and a new food menu. We’re been listening to what the customers want and adapting to that. People have been so supportive.

“We are very much looking forward to 2024 and building the business. We’ve used the first six months for a bit of trial and error. After Covid, I feel the customers habits have changed and therefore we’ve moved our music offering to an earlier time. It was all about getting more stable and consistent with the offering. Our previous pub experience was in Lanzarote, so our challenge has been to adapt that to Scotland and the way things are done here.”

They have plenty of plans in the diary such as more live music dates from owner and musician Rory, quizzes and a monthly charity comedy night.

Bartenders Lounge – Aberdeen

Bartenders Lounge burst onto the Aberdeen bar scene in December 2022. Owner Craig Scott says, “The first year has been a rollercoaster. Opening a cocktail bar at the age of 22 was never going to be easy, but I definitely underestimated it. There’s been laughing, crying, blood, sweat and tears to make it all work but I wouldn’t have changed a thing this past year. We’ve had our issues but our first year has been a real high and we’ve managed to maintain a premium standard in order to deliver an excellent service to our guests.

“I can’t praise my team enough for their attitude. Any challenges that we have faced were met with a ‘how do we fix it’ mentality. To comfortably say the business is here to stay is a great feeling and I’m excited to keep pushing the standards and new ideas for 2024. So far, the city and our guests have been loving our style of hospitality.”

These new ideas include a tapas kitchen opening in December, plans to open a virtual whisky shop, an upstairs speakeasy with a focus on sustainability, and even a mobile bar for events.

The East End Fox – Baillieston

The East End Fox opened in Baillieston last winter and has been a massive success for owner Ferrier Richardson. It has won various awards including the Kopparberg New Bar of the Year at our own event. He says, “The East End Fox is a proper pub with a Scottish twist. The key here is the location – we are delivering a town product in a local community.

“We’re not operating in great times, good staff are difficult to find, and costs are expensive, so you’ve got to be clever how you operate. I think the Government in both UK and in Scotland could also be doing a lot more to help the industry.

“We’ve been doing a lot of events and catering to the local community. You’ve got to be creative to make your business work and having a good social media presence is so important. “

We don’t open Monday or Tuesday because we know there’s no point currently and it reduces both our costs and the number of people we have to employ.

“Next year we are hoping the weather will be better so we can get more use out of our beer garden which we have heavily invested in.”

“We would also like to do another site of a similar concept if we can find the right one, but we certainly won’t be doing it for the sake of it. I feel like if you can get by in these times hopefully things will improve and there will be bigger rewards to come.”


Category: Bar & Pub, News
Tags: Bar 13, Bartenders Lounge, Coco Boho, El Santo, new venues, Ramen Dayo, The East End Fox, Thirty Knots, West Side Tavern