The winners of the 2017 SLTN Awards will be announced at the trade night of the year at Glasgow’s Hilton Hotel on Thursday November 2, hosted by Jimmy Carr.
Now in its 22nd year, the SLTN Awards continues to represent the benchmark for excellence in Scotland’s licensed trade.
Here are the people and businesses that have made the final cut this year…
Given its location, surrounded by Islay’s many distilleries, it’s no surprise that the Ballygrant’s 700-strong range majors in the island’s malts. But there’s also an extensive range of whiskies from the rest of the regions for customers who may be “peated out”, as well as a selection of blends and world whiskies. The inn offers a good choice of whisky tastings and flights as well as a food and whisky pairing menu.
Launched last year following a major refurbishment of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), Kaleidoscope whisky bar aims to give members of the public a taste of what the independent bottler has to offer. The bar stocks more than 200 whiskies – with the emphasis firmly on flavour profiles – as well as a number of rare malts selected by Charles MacLean. Kaleidoscope’s menu also features a broad range of whisky cocktails, flights and food pairings.
This Glasgow institution is quite literally stocked to the rafters with whisky. The 730-strong range is designed to offer something for everyone – from the novice to the expert – at a range of price points, from every corner of Scotland as well as a host of whisky-producing nations around the world. Whisky is promoted in a variety of ways at The Pot Still – from the knowledgeable staff and social media activity to regular tasting events and whisky clubs in the bar.
There is no doubt that The Adamson’s dedicated cocktail bar has made an impact on St Andrews’ burgeoning bar scene. Catering for a broad clientele, the bar excels in top notch classic cocktails as well as creating new and exciting experiences for customers. The team really has turned its gaze outwards and travels the world for inspiration to help keep the venue evolving.
This venue has been setting trends since it opened six years ago – and the team has not rested on its laurels, constantly adding innovative new serves, ingredients and products. With a strong emphasis on nurturing ideas and ingenuity, all members of the bar team are full-time members of staff, which cultivates care and passion, translating into a top end customer experience.
Orchid is a stalwart of the Aberdeen cocktail bar scene and has a pedigree of producing top rank mixologists. The bar team at Orchid is focused on detail, and there is a clear emphasis on creating the perfect experience for the consumer. The introduction of bottled creations makes strategic sense for busy nights and expands the Orchid brand further.
A cornerstone of the Edinburgh cocktail scene for a number of years now, Tonic has lost nothing of its focus. The drinks list has a strong backbone of classic serves, which are all produced with gusto and attention to detail; and customers are encouraged to interact with the staff, shake up their own drinks and are rewarded for their patronage through a loyalty scheme.
With a huge range of rums, currently above the 120 mark, Distill offers something for everyone. The menu features a variety of rum flights and cocktails, and the staff have extensive knowledge, which they share through the venue’s masterclasses and rum club. Encouraging customers to get out of their comfort zones and venture down the path less trodden, Distill aims to get everyone excited about rum.
An oasis of escapism in the heart of Glasgow, Tiki Bar may not appear to take itself too seriously, but rum is taken very seriously indeed. Opened in 2010, the bar has 140 rums covering a range of styles, and the knowledgeable staff were hand-picked for their passion about the spirit. Cocktails are what people come to Tiki Bar for, and its selection of classics and originals, coupled with incredible atmosphere, ensure an experience worth coming back for time and again.
The Voodoo Rooms prides itself on diversity – and the rums on the back-bar are no exception. Aiming to cover the world with its range, this bar offers many different spirits from many different origins. Rums are priced in a way to encourage trial, and staff are dedicated to getting more consumers interested in rum. With the venue’s focus on consumer education, training is paramount and comprehensive.
Located in an Edinburgh suburb, meaning many customers have to drive to reach it, Charwood felt the effects of the change in the drink drive limit – prompting a new focus on soft drinks. The venue’s offer covers all bases, including mocktails, smoothies and milkshakes; and the introduction of a premium organic and Fairtrade range has been a great success, helping boost sales.
Located in the west Highlands, The Crofter is a hub for both locals and tourists. Choosing to embrace the changes in drink drive laws and the imminent sugar levy, the owner of this outlet expanded its soft drinks offer, and he and the team work hard to champion the category and the bar’s enviable range both in the outlet and via social media.
With an extensive range on draught and a variety of premium packaged drinks, this venue has a strong soft drinks offer catering for a broad range of tastes. It goes the extra mile with alcohol-free cocktails and pitchers, soda floats and shakes; there’s also a range of mocktails made using the outlet’s slush machine, which are promoted in the venue and on social media.
This Edinburgh pub boasts an extensive range of craft beer and a team with outstanding knowledge of the category, who take the time to talk to customers about all things craft beer. The range balances better known brands with unique ales brewed specially for the bar, and the venue is used regularly by a local brewer as a testing ground for new craft beers.
Inn Deep has an outstanding selection of craft beer spanning a range of styles – from pale ales to sour beers – in bottle, can, cask and keg format. Staff are passionate about craft beer and are extremely knowledgeable about all of the beers stocked. The back-bar is jam-packed with pump clips, showcasing the huge amount of beers stocked in the bar.
From unique beers brewed on-site to a vast selection from a variety of producers, the Shilling Brewing Company’s range really is a melting pot of craft beer offering something to suit a broad customer base and a variety of tastes. As well as bringing a point of difference to the bar’s range of craft beer, the on-site brewery ensures staff knowledge is first class.
The Bridge Inn is a venue with a clear commitment to beer. Regular beer excellence training takes place, the venue collaborates closely with its beer suppliers and it holds Cask Marque status. There’s a strong system of beer receiving, storing and rotation. There’s also very well-organised line, cellar and bar cleaning, and effective, well-managed cellar cooling. In the bar, beer display is strong, branded glasses are used effectively and glass cleaning and replacement is very well-handled.
The Market Arms has a well-deserved reputation for serving great pints. The outlet uses a dedicated cellar specialist to ensure best practice in line cleaning and cellar management; and there’s regular staff beer training. The space behind the bar, branded glasses, and glass washing, renovating and air-drying equipment are all very well-utilised to ensure great beer dispense. The pub is committed to frequent beer glass replacement and it has added cask and craft products to its range.
Experienced management and staff at the Volunteer Arms ensure it achieves excellent cellar chilling, beer rotation and line cleaning. The judges noted the pub’s strong use of branded glassware, its effective use of glass renovation products and its regular glass replacement programme. They were also impressed by attention to details, like the use of special matting for quick, effective glass drying. The pub is widening its beer range to respond to market trends but is determined to do so carefully.
With the bar for quality set so high in the Scottish trade, the job of company bar training manager for Buzzworks Holdings can’t be one for the faint-hearted, but David Howie has the knowledge and passion to equal the task. With nine years of experience and an extensive bookshelf of all things spirits, David spends his weeks meeting with teams across the Buzzworks estate, igniting passion and creativity across the company with a dedication to his role that impressed the judges.
An industry stalwart with 18 years of experience under his belt, Andy Keir’s passion for spirits has sent ripples through the trade over the years, with more than a few well-kent mixologists having picked up a thing or two from the boss of Bruach. Judges were impressed with Andy’s enthusiasm for sharing his expertise with junior staff members as well as a commitment to the craft that’s seen him make spirits pilgrimages from Speyside to Australia.
Not many teenagers own and operate their own still but then not many have the same passion for spirits as Lachlan Rooney. Fast forward a few years and Lachlan has a working knowledge of spirits that left judges impressed. His passion for spirits is such that there can hardly be a colleague or customer that hasn’t learned something from this bartender over the years.
With more than 350 gins on the back-bar, 56 North boasts one of the most extensive ranges in the country. And the vast range, which spans every style and price bracket and includes a number of limited edition gins, is made easy for consumers to navigate with a menu which splits the gins by flavour profile, pairing each with a suggested mixer and garnish. There’s also a comprehensive selection of gin flights and regular masterclasses run by the highly knowledgeable staff.
Gin has been at the heart of this Glasgow bar since it opened six years ago. The gantry is home to a carefully-considered range spanning different styles and select countries of origin with a particular focus on Scotland, while the bar menu outlines a range of suggested serves – from gin, mixer and garnish combinations to cocktails. Staff are passionate about gin, working with producers and distributors to broaden their knowledge, which they then share with customers.
Creating a fun, vibrant bar in which people can enjoy and learn more about gin was the aim of the team behind The Jolly Botanist. Two years after its launch, the bar’s quirky, fun approach to gin continues to prove a hit with customers. The gantry houses around 100 gins, which are all listed in an innovative menu featuring descriptions of each along with suggested mixer and garnish. Staff are kept up to speed through regular training and ‘meet the maker’ sessions.
Never taking itself too seriously, 7 Saints has carved out its own unique identity in the Ayrshire town of Prestwick, with a firm focus on fun throughout. From the ping-pong tables, to the Blackpool-esque ‘hole in the wall’ photo opportunity, the venue’s Tiki Garden also has its own bar, which serves a special range of cocktails. With a cleverly-executed social media strategy, 7 Saints has already made a name for itself in Ayrshire and beyond.
There’s plenty to crow about at this Edinburgh bar, particularly when it comes to its impressive beer garden. Nestled away at the rear of the pub, the decked space has plenty of character thanks to a collaboration with Kent-based graffiti artist Mr Doodle, who redesigned the outdoor area’s feature walls. A dedicated outdoor bar (housed in a converted shed) coupled with regular live music sessions from local musicians means the space is in high demand.
While many outlets’ outdoor areas are viewed as supplementary to their business, it’s a different story at The Three Sisters. The pub’s sizeable courtyard is the heart and soul of the venue, and is utilised year-round, with a jam-packed calendar of creative events, including timely link ups with drinks brands for events like the Six Nations and summer beach parties.
Gregor’s welcoming personality and vast drinks knowledge mean he is completely at home behind the bar. Methodical in his work, he knows his regulars and their favourite drinks well, and is equally comfortable meeting new customers. Taking formal licensed trade qualifications, he is preparing himself for a long career in pubs and hospitality.
Becky has a smile for all of her customers. She knows her regulars well and shows thorough understanding of the range of beers, wines and spirits on offer in Platform 3. Having started in a part-time position, she has developed her skills and become a valuable, full-time member of the team. Becky has extensive drinks knowledge and enjoys sharing that with colleagues and customers.
Nicole is an enthusiastic barperson with huge knowledge and understanding of all drinks categories and cocktails, which she enjoys sharing with customers of the Edinburgh bar. A creative mixologist, Nicole is keen to continue her personal development as a bartender and is committed to a long-term career in the trade.
It’s been a busy time for Orchid general manager Nick who, on top of his already brimming bucket of responsibilities, has been bringing new members of the Aberdeen venue’s bar team up to speed with the speakeasy’s high standards. Judges were impressed by Nick’s innovative approach to drinks creation, his command of the bar and his unfaltering focus on the customer experience.
Whilst the area has seen a boom in new bars in recent years, The Finnieston continues to stand out as a cut above many in terms of quality; and with mixologists like Jamie behind the bar it’s easy to see why. A voracious reader, Jamie’s depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for drinks creation impressed judges and his well-balanced drinks are the proof in the pudding.
Taking to his relatively new role as head bartender at Kelvingrove Café like a duck to water, Ryan already has a vision in mind for the venue. No stranger to the cocktail competition scene where he has clearly honed his drinks creation skills, Ryan impressed judges with his willingness to play with sometimes weird and often wonderful ingredients to create the kind of drinks that leave customers thirsty for more.
This Glasgow institution may have clocked up 16 years but Brian and his team are not resting on their laurels. Menus are continually developed while staying true to their seasonal and sustainable ethos, and ongoing investment in front and back of house training ensures consistent and seamless service.
Overlooking the hotel’s gardens, this glass-fronted restaurant combines classic elegance with a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. The team works with a number of Ayrshire suppliers to source quality produce from the local larder to create dishes which major in seafood and game. A continual training programme maintains quality both front and back of house.
Located in the heart of Aberdeen’s west end, No.10 opened two years ago following the transformation of a traditional pub into a 90-cover restaurant with private dining room. The venue successfully marries a plush interior with a relaxed atmosphere, and the seasonal Scottish menus cater for a broad customer base.
La Petite Mort has firmly staked its claim since opening two years ago, combining a cosy and relaxed bistro-style environment with classically-inspired cuisine incorporating innovative techniques and flavour combinations. The team has forged strong relationships with local suppliers, sourcing seasonal, sustainable ingredients to produce consistent, quality dishes.
Located on Glasgow’s bustling Bath Street, Bloc+ has been in business since 2002 and continues to thrive due to an offer that combines strong food and drinks ranges with a well-earned reputation for live music. Open from 11am till 3am seven days a week, Bloc+ attracts a broad customer base, from local office workers to students and fans of all kinds of music.
Johnny Foxes is an Inverness institution, as popular with locals as it is with tourists. Two venues in one, the business is split across two adjoining units: traditional pub Johnny Foxes and late night bar and nightclub The Den, which provides a different, but equally lively, atmosphere. Food makes up a sizeable part of the offer at Johnny Foxes, and this side of the business has grown considerably in recent years.
Popular with islanders and visitors alike, this busy Tobermory bar keeps its customers happy with a broad selection of drinks, locally-sourced food and great customer service, which is kept sharp with staff training. Despite its popularity, the venue doesn’t rest on its laurels; the team is determined to maintain high standards, as well as being actively involved in organising and sponsoring local events.
A decrease in Irani cafés (from a few hundred in 1950 to 25) inspired the team behind Chaakoo to set its sights on reviving a legacy. Mimicking the feel of 19th century Bombay cafés, Chaakoo delivers an authentic Iranian experience through speciality dishes and design-led décor. Chai Tea is a signature drink and just one snippet from a menu that includes mouth-watering Indian food and drink served in an impressive colonial-style setting.
With old medicine bottles and doctor’s equipment complemented by green leather library furnishings, this café cocktail bar takes its design cues from early 20th century apothecaries. Carrying a mantra of ‘healthy indulgence’, it offers locally-sourced, seasonal and sustainable produce. An original name and interior, The Drugstore Social takes pride in being one of the few venues to stock organic and biodynamic wines.
Since opening in 2014, Gin71 has gone from strength to strength. This fully table-serviced bar is led by a dedicated and committed team whose objective is to guide customers to their perfect gin through their deep knowledge and understanding of the spirit. The bar has also hosted Gin71 at the Sea, part of the Helensburgh Real Ale Festival, for the last three years.
The Commercial combines remarkable marketing with great sports delivery as the team goes the extra mile to make major sporting events just that, with impressive delivery of a range of sports from the Grand National to Wimbledon. The Commercial’s marketing activity combines in-house advertising with social media promotion, which works well for the Lanarkshire outlet. The pub also maintains long-standing relationships with local sports clubs.
The recently-refurbished Old Schoolhouse pub puts some interestingly divergent twists on its offer for sports fans – from football prediction competitions to well-subscribed polls on which game to show. Last year the bar took the step of backing Poland at the European Championships – a move that went down well with the city’s large Polish community. Food offers are also geared toward sports fans with specials that provided a taste of each country.
A sporting hub in the town, Sportsters was converted from a cinema into a leviathan venue with sport at its heart. Boasting 61 screens and 12 projectors throughout, the venue has the ability to show up to five different sports channels at any one time. Impressive social media presentation and sponsorship deals with Falkirk’s football and rugby clubs underlines the bar’s commitment to sport.
Live music has been key to the success of The Howlin’ Wolf, with the bar having garnered something of an international reputation amongst blues fans due to its clear emphasis on the genre. However, with a selection of spirits and craft beers from around the world, table service and great food served until 2am seven days a week, it’s easy to see why the Wolf has a pull reaching far beyond blues lovers.
It may be in its debut year but The Permit Room has quickly established itself in Edinburgh’s buoyant late night bar scene. Beautifully designed with a Bombay speakeasy theme, the bar is a subterranean tribute to the former Indian city’s Prohibition Act of 1949 and combines consummate service with a distinct drinks list inspired by the two cities’ historical connections.
Impressively converted from a 19th century church, Soul has been a firm favourite with Aberdonians since opening its doors 13 years ago. The stylish venue boasts an extensive cocktail list matched by a comprehensive food offer. Staff have built up a strong presence on social media over the past year, engaging with Soul’s broad customer base.
A venue with a clientele that includes many young adults, Fubar takes a highly organised approach to socially responsible trading. The judges were impressed by the outlet’s cameras, security staff body-cams, and its first aid room; they also thought management were very committed to dealing with issues connected to young adult venues. Fubar also runs alcohol-free under-18 events and collaborates positively with local agencies. Safety systems for dealing with incidents like spillages and breakages are excellent.
Harlem Nightclub, part of The Collective hotel, restaurant and club complex, ticked all the boxes in terms of safe, secure and responsible licensed trading – with great equipment, training, systems, and trade, business and community group involvement. Its ground-breaking 4am licence means customers leave over an extended period. It also provides food until very late, hands out sweets at exits and uses its rear car park and links with local taxi firms to avoid late-night disruption.
Johnny Foxes has been an important part of the Inverness entertainment scene for many years. With its club space, The Den, it caters for a very wide age range. Judges were impressed in particular by its investment in technology, strong knowledge of the local market and community, involvement in local trade and business organisations, outreach to local street pastors and contacts with military units in the area. The judges also noted Johnny Foxes’ very active commitment to staff wellbeing.
Having operated for more than thirty years in the heart of Stirling, Fubar remains the lifeblood of the city’s nightclub scene. Not ones to rest on their laurels, the operators behind the Stirling club have continued to innovate – from the installation of a new DJ booth and lighting system, to the increased focus on music-led events. Judges were particularly impressed with Fubar’s approach to marketing, both via Snapchat and its customer loyalty app, FlashApp.
The Sanctuary is changing with the times, adapting to cater to the needs of all types of custom – both day and night. Boasting a stylish, modern interior, which makes clever use of adaptable internal doors, The Sanctuary remains a very functional space that continues to appeal to a wide range of customers. And it lives up to its name, operating initiatives like the Daytime Disco, which provides a safe space for those with Alzheimer’s disease. By thinking outside the box, The Sanctuary offers something for everyone.
In the thriving late night scene of Edinburgh, Why Not Nightclub manages to stand out from the crowd – attracting students and young professionals alike. It’s easy to see why; beyond its impressive, custom-built ‘grid’ lighting system, Why Not boasts a state-of-the-art sound system, five cocktail bars and a sizeable outdoor area. With a newly-refurbished Vegas-inspired VIP room, as well as new outdoor bar The Outhouse, Why Not continues to surpass customer expectations.
Established in 1983, the DRG (Di Maggio’s Restaurant Group) is the oldest of this year’s finalists. But the group isn’t short of dynamism, as evidenced by the launch of its 19th outlet, The Citizen, in Glasgow earlier this year. Employing more than 900 staff, the business has made training and career development a major focus in the past year, with the launch of a new apprenticeship programme.
The group that spearheaded the redevelopment of Glasgow’s Finnieston area, Kained Holdings continues to develop its business, both in terms of units – with The Drugstore Social and The Duchess of Argyle among recent openings – and its own staff, with the introduction of a management development programme. Infrastructure has also been a focus in the past year, with the appointment of a new operations manager.
With a portfolio of nine hotels, the core of Manorview’s business lies in its booming weddings and events business. The past year has seen the company expand its estate with the acquisition of the Star & Garter hotel in Linlithgow and the refurbishment of existing properties that include Cornhill Castle. There has also been a greater focus on staff, with the launch of a rewards programme and new training initiative.
Mum-of-three Virginie uses the profile of her successful wine bar and restaurant to support her passion: humanitarian work in Ethiopia. Investing her own money, she sponsors a feeding programme for over 1000 children and frequently holds charity events to raise awareness and gather funds for the drought-affected African state. Virginie regularly travels to the country where she assists the Daughters of Charity mission in refugee camps and schools, making an impact hands-on.
Finance and operations director Brian strives to create a safe and positive environment for The Garage and Cathouse’s clientele and prioritises the welfare of his staff, so much so, his team have christened him ‘office dad’. His influence as chair of the Sauchiehall Business Improvement District has put the local community at the heart of the campaign to upgrade the area. Self-effacing Brian also works tirelessly for charity and recently dyed his beard blue to raise money for the Samaritans.
This chef with a social conscience reinvests his restaurants’ profits in an array of charity projects. His ‘Cooking Up A Storm’ venture directly helps people facing food poverty and isolation issues by running cooking classes in low-income areas and offering workplace and job training for school leavers and individuals with barriers to work. Colin even shuts the Kilted Lobster every Tuesday to give the restaurant experience to families who may not have the means to visit otherwise.
SLTN and Chivas have joined forces to search for the licensed trade’s most inspiring and successful entrepreneur, acknowledging the special role played by Scotland’s licensed trade entrepreneurs in ensuring Scotland retains one of the most successful, inventive and innovative licensed trades in the world. Who will it be in 2017?
The most important influences on Scotland’s licensed trade are the people who play their part in it – as owners and entrepreneurs, managers and educators, activists and innovators. The SLTN Industry Achievement Award, presented in association with Maxxium, will recognise an individual member of the trade who has made a very special contribution. Who will it be in 2017?