Is leasing pubs the future for craft?

Partnerships between producers and pubcos can benefit both sides, say firms

Cairngorm Brewery took on the lease of Aviemore pub The Winking Owl in 2015.
Cairngorm Brewery took on the lease of Aviemore pub The Winking Owl in 2015.

SCOTLAND’S craft brewers are being encouraged to use pubs to grow their businesses – by becoming lessees themselves.

Pub company Star Pubs & Bars claims the leasehold model represents a significant opportunity for brewers to showcase their range of beers, and is encouraging more breweries to consider leasing its pubs.

It comes after a partnership with Aviemore-based Cairngorm Brewery, which both companies have hailed as a success.

“The low cost entry of a leased pub provides brewers with a good showcase and route to market for their products without tying up capital in buying a site,” said Gary Corney, operations director for the north at Star Pubs & Bars.

“That capital can be retained and invested in their brewing operations or acquiring more pubs.

“And we can also provide the pub retailing expertise and support they might not have.

“From our side, brewery taps make great pubs, providing customers with the individual experience, local product and knowledgeable service they want.”

Cairngorm Brewery took on the lease of Aviemore pub The Winking Owl in 2015. As part of the terms of the 25-year lease, the pub company paid for some repairs to the property and upgraded the licensee accommodation, while Cairngorm invested £150,000 renovating the pub.

The brewery sells four of its ales on draught – White Lady, Trade Winds, Black Gold and Wildcat – as well as a range of its bottled beers in the fridge.

In addition to Cairngorm’s own beers, The Winking Owl also stocks a range of beers and lagers from Heineken, including Heineken, Foster’s, Deuchars IPA, and Birra Moretti on tap and a range of bottled beers and ciders in the fridge.

Cairngorm managing director, Sam Faircliff, said the arrangement has worked out well for the brewery.

“Brewers know how to make beer but not necessarily how to run a pub,” she said.

“Taking on your first pub is a steep learning curve. Dipping your toe into the water with a short-term lease is more reassuring than investing heavily and going into it alone. We got a week’s training induction when we started and receive the support of an area manager ongoing.

“As well as receiving sales building advice, we make savings through the supplier agreements Star has negotiated using its larger buying power. It takes the headache out of arranging things such as insurance and statutory inspections and saves us money.”