But he reckons the fire which gutted Buzzworks’ Lido venue in the Ayrshire town of Troon in February 2012 – and the subsequent project to rebuild the unit – is perhaps the toughest yet.
Speaking to SLTN last week in the new-look bar and restaurant, which opened in time for Christmas, it’s clear Colin’s positive attitude – an attribute he shares with siblings and business partners Kenny and Alison – played a major role in ensuring the venue did, indeed, rise from the ashes.
In fact, recalling the moment he learned about the fire, Colin said he was never in any doubt that it would reopen.
“I was at home reading the papers on the Sunday morning when I got a call to say there was a fire at Lido,” he
“I live about half a mile away and as I went to go down there, I opened my front door and saw a plume of smoke.
“The building had to be demolished. But at no point did I think we wouldn’t rebuild and reopen it.
“The most important thing to me was that no one was hurt, and there were minimal job losses because the staff went to work in our other outlets.
“I just thought ‘we’ll do it again and we’ll do it even better this time’.”
It turns out, the Blairs’ positive attitude was to be tested to the limit.
Their plan to have Lido up and running by the end of that year hit the buffers when their initial insurance claim was refuted; and it was midway through 2013 before a settlement was reached.
In the interim, they had acquired the neighbouring shoe shop, allowing them to create a private dining area in the new venue.
They had also compiled a clear brief for designer Jim Hamilton and main contractor, Kilmarnock-based Transition Interiors.
With the plans rubber-stamped, the rebuild got underway last September; and, just six weeks later, the shell of the new building was complete and work on the interior could start.
As Colin explained, glamour and opulence were the watchwords.
“We’re competing with people’s homes now, which sends a shiver down your spine, but that’s the reality,” he said.
“People have got 42’’ plasma screens, hundreds of TV channels, supermarket ‘dine in for £10’ deals.
Anyone can handle the good times. It’s how you survive the down times that counts.
“To get people out of their houses to spend money, your interior has to be better than their house.
“It had to be glamorous and aspirational.”
Based on the same principles as before, the new-look Lido is ‘split’ into bar and restaurant areas, with floor to ceiling windows running along the front of the unit.
A darker colour palette has been used in the restaurant area with accents of cerise pink and bright purple in the upholstery of the chairs and circular booths, which are lit by contemporary oversized dark-grey light fittings.
By contrast, a lighter colour scheme has been used in the bar area.
Small two-person booths upholstered in cream quilted leather run along the glass frontage, while large circular booths, featuring light grey leather, are stationed opposite the bar; there’s also a number of tall poseur tables with brushed steel tops and stools featuring the light grey leather.
The bar itself has an oak frontage and cream top; while the gantry combines glass and mirror.
Leading off the bar area, the new private dining area also features a light colour scheme, with a black and white tiled floor, two large bespoke oak tables made by Transition Interiors’ in-house joinery company, Character Joinery, and oversized transparent light fittings.
It’s not just the design of the public areas in Lido that received close attention.
The open kitchen has been incorporated into the overall design too. It has been finished with contemporary wall tiles and a range of stainless steel equipment, sourced from Irvine-based Blue Refrigeration & Air Conditioning and Transition Interiors; the kit extends to four different cooking methods: clay oven, induction, churrasco grill and a robata grill with a plancha (metal plate).
“Food trends just now are towards light, clean Mediterranean food so having the different cooking methods was very important,” Colin explained.
The building had to be demolished but at no point did I think we wouldn’t rebuild it.
“Food is a big part of what we do here – it’s about 70% food to 30% liquor – so we spent a lot on the kitchen. The kitchen is part of the show and so we wanted it to look good and be a good environment for the guys to work in.”
Lido’s drinks offer has also been overhauled.
Working with suppliers Inverarity Morton and Wallaces TCB, an extensive range of premium beers wines and spirits was compiled. The draught range includes Tennent’s Ice Cold, Heverlee, Caledonia Best, Magners Golden Draught, Estrella Damm, Staropramen and Peroni; and there’s around a dozen bottled beers. Cocktails include From The Ashes: a mix of Davna Bizon vodka, apple juice, lime juice and ginger beer; and the Lido Club Cocktail: a blend of Tanqueray gin, limoncelllo and lemon juice.
Colin reckons the offer fits well with the new-look Lido, which he said has a “cosier and more European feel” than before.
“It’s more glamorous,” he said.
“I had a vision of all of this but I think there is a wee bit of magic to it.
“I think we’ve put an even better venue back, and that’s what the customers are telling us.”
As if rebuilding, designing and fitting out Lido – a project which totalled £1 million – wasn’t enough, Buzzworks was also revamping the bar area of its Elliots venue in Prestwick at the same time, and using the same team of Jim Hamilton and Transition Interiors.
Centering on the bar area (the restaurant and terrace areas at Elliots are next in line), the £400,000, five-week refurbishment saw new white Krion bar tops and a stainless steel gantry installed, along with tables featuring in-built ice chests.
Colin said the revamp has transformed the space into a “true nightclub”.
“We felt strongly we had to innovate the business,” he said.
“Elliots is 11 years old and it’s traded consistently well over those 11 years, but we felt it wasn’t representative of what we’re about now.
“We just had a gut instinct; sometimes you just know when the time is right to invest.
“We revamped the bar area over a five-week period, opening every weekend, and we never lost a penny of turnover. Now we’ll refurb the rest of Elliots to bring it in line with that.”
Delighted though he is with the end result at both Elliots and Lido, Colin admits the 22 months following the fire have been among the toughest in Buzzworks’ history.
And while there are plans for the group to expand further (Buzzworks has bought the former Stag & Hound pub in Kilwinning from Punch Taverns and plans to relaunch it as the Cornerhouse this summer and its Dome venue is set to become Lido Prestwick), Colin said they are in no rush.
“We’ll polish here [Lido] and get it consistent first,” he said.
“It’s not about opening new places quickly.
“This [Lido] has been a challenge. We’ve had challenges over the years and this was one of the toughest. If we weren’t a portfolio business, we’d probably have gone bust.
“But I’m really proud we managed to grow our business and had our most profitable year while this was shut.
“It’s all about how you handle the down times.
“Anyone can handle the good times but how you survive the down times is what counts.
“We could all say ‘there’s no money, the rates are too high, the weather is rubbish’; you can override all of that.
“It’s tough and I don’t think it’s getting any easier; people have less discretionary spend.
“But there’s always a way.”
Blue Refrigeration & Air Conditioning