Business is heating up in Aberdeen

Operator executes major refurb losing just one day’s trade. Jonathan Watt reports

The number of covers at Siberia was increased from 105 to 130 as part of the refurb.
The number of covers at Siberia was increased from 105 to 130 as part of the refurb.

IT’S been a challenging few years for the granite city, but as Aberdeen begins to emerge from the oil price slump of 2015, some city operators are investing with an eye to the future.

Siberia Vodka Bar on Belmont Street is one such business, having recently undergone a six-figure refurbishment.

Stuart McPhee, who has been at the helm of the venue for the last four years as general manager, said it was the right time to invest in the outlet.

The market in Aberdeen is set for something of a resurgence with more venues due to open in the new multi-million pound Marischall Square development in the city centre, just five minutes walk from the bar.

And McPhee said the experience of recent years has taught him to appreciate small victories as he runs the day-to-day business of the bar.

“A lot of businesses went under because they didn’t have the contingencies in place to deal with what happened with oil and gas prices,” he said.

“I think things are levelling out now into a normal environment.

“In my first year as manager I just had to open the doors and it was busy; now you’ve got to fight for your place in the market for sure.”

Ahead of the refurb, everything in the bar was subject to scrutiny, from menus to stools.

New flooring has been installed throughout the venue, while contemporary wall art has been employed in a bid to give the place a sleeker vibe and sense of identity.

A new gaming area, which enables six different people to play retro video games, has been added to a space in the bar that was previously used for storage.

We didn’t want to factor in a major loss of earnings to the cost that we invested.

All the venue’s fixed seating has been changed too, allowing for more diners to come in and enjoy a newly overhauled menu.

And the number of covers the bar can accommodate was increased from 105 to 130, enabling it to host larger parties.

What was previously a horseshoe-shaped fixed seating area has been replaced with three booths, each of which can seat eight diners.

Siberia’s new food and drink offer has made use of some of the north east’s notable suppliers including Turriffs of Montrose, Thains Bakery, King Foods and Aberdeenshire Larder as well as Caber Coffee.

Despite the extensive refurbishment, however, the venue only lost one day of trading, on October 9, as most of the work was done incrementally through October and November.

“That is an indication of the way Aberdeen business is,” explained McPhee.

“We didn’t want to factor in a major loss of earnings to the cost that we invested so we did our best to negate it.”

McPhee said he hopes the new-look bar expands its already diverse clientele as it offers “something for everyone”.

He said: “We’re hoping that this investment will open us up to new markets and new ways of marketing ourselves.

“Before I would never have been comfortable marketing to corporate bookings but I think the space is suited to it now.

“We’ve managed to become a little bit more upmarket but we’ve done it in our way that doesn’t alienate any regulars.

“The staff haven’t changed; they’ll still chat away and make people feel comfortable.

“It’s still a place to have a good time.”