Otley Pub Club have succeeded in persuading Star Pubs and Bars (Heineken) to reconsider and revise their plans for the two historic pubs, the White Swan and the Black Bull, that had led to Pub Club and the Otley community opposing and campaigning against the changes.
Star agreed to take down the plans for the Black Bull and revise the scheme in an email to Otley Pub Club on 31st March and agreed to meet with Otley Pub Club. In a meeting attended by Pub Club President Greg Mulholland, Cllr Peter Jackson and Chris Shippey on 25th April, Star also committed to reconsider and revise the plans for the White Swan also.
Otley Pub Club had objected to the changes advertised on the Star website. The original plans were to “reposition The Black Bull as a modern, stylish pub”, rather than celebrating and promoting the heritage and history of the pub, Otley’s oldest believed to date back to the 16th Century. The computer-generated image of modern steakhouse stencilling 16th century Black Bull caused particular outrage, with the story being picked up, from Otley Pub Club’s release, in the national media and even by a journalist in Holland, due to the pub being owned by Heineken.
The plans for the White Swan, a traditional pub (much of which is estimated to be around 250 years old), involved ripping out the appealing multi-room interior and replacing it with “industrial style furniture, contrasted with softer botanical features and finishes to turn the pub into an attractive space with a trendy, city-centre feel” as well as trying to become a pub-restaurant. The current landlord and customers are adamant this would fail, with food having been tried before, thus threatening the pub’s future.
In terms of revisions to the plans regarding the Black Bull, following Star taking the plans down at the end of March in response to Otley Pub Club’s letter, they have now committed to coming up with a refurbishment scheme “with a more historic and traditional feel” which Otley Pub Club hope will be far more in keeping with this historic pub, that was reputedly drunk dry by Cromwell’s troops before the Battle of Marston Moor.
In terms of the White Swan, Star have agreed to reconsider the “industrial elements” of the planned refurbishment scheme and instead will come up with revised plans “so that it retains a more local/traditional feel” including reviewing their plans to rip out walls and to look again at the proposals for food, which has been tried before and hasn’t worked in what is a popular community local.
Otley Pub Club also raised concerns that the plans for both pubs included wholly unrealistic turnover levels, considering the competition in Otley with many pubs, bars and restaurants, which would lead to a high likelihood of tenant failure and damage to the long-term trade for both pubs. So Otley Pub Club will continue to push Star to be realistic and fair in terms regarding rent and beer pricing, so as to allow tenants to make a living and a success of each pub.
Greg Mulholland, President of Otley Pub Club said:
“It’s great news that Star Pubs and Bars have agreed to reconsider and revise their plans for both the White Swan and the Black Bull in Otley, this is very positive news and we are hopeful that this means that the proposals for both pubs will be appropriate for these two historic pubs.
“We thank Star Pubs and Bars for engaging with Otley Pub Club and the wider community, following our campaign, and are pleased that they are will discuss with the current licensees of both pubs to discuss how best to invest into each of them, celebrating the history and heritage as well as assisting each pub being as successful as possible. We will continue to press Star to understand that the White Swan is a thriving community pub and must remain so and we hope their plans will involve building on that and working with Chris Shippey, who has shown himself to be an excellent and popular landlord who has built up the business and a very loyal clientele. We look forward to working with Star, as Otley’s biggest pub owner and hope that all their pubs succeed, with the right offer, the right licensee and fair and realistic terms.
Eddie Conneely Secretary of Otley Pub Club added:
“Otley Pub Club are pleased that Star have listened and want to work with us and the wider community and with excellent local licensees as to how to invest in the pubs they are running to maximise the trade, without making changes that will undermine existing custom.
“The White Swan and Black Bull are both very important Otley pubs, with different roles and we hope Star will celebrate and build on that in their revised plans. This includes keeping the White Swan as a community pub and instead of ripping out the interior, making the most of is as a popular traditional local”.