Meet the GBPA nominees: Best Turnaround Pub, sponsored by Molson Coors

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Great British Pub Awards 2017: The winners will be revealed at The Hilton on Park Lane on 7 September
Great British Pub Awards 2017: The winners will be revealed at The Hilton on Park Lane on 7 September
Our final set of previews for this year’s John Smith’s Great British Pub Awards are the nominees for Best Turnaround Pub, sponsored by Molson Coors.

This category seeks to recognize pubs that have best turned their business around over the past 12 months.

The Anchor, Aspley Guise, Bedfordshire

It’s always a challenge taking on a closed-down business, but that didn’t put off the operators behind the Anchor. In its previous existence, the pub had been a traditional, old-fashioned, wet-led boozer with limited food options, but had been shut down for six months. Epic Pubs has transformed it, blending the traditional with the contemporary to create a home-from-home environment. A strong focus on food, and holding regular themed nights, Street Food Mondays, or Chicken Tuesdays, is helping to drive trade. 

The makeover included the addition of an apex dining area, new kitchen, toilets, seated terrace and private dining room, which hosts 10 events a week. 

The turnaround has certainly caused a stir, and the pub recently celebrated its success after being named Best Newcomer in the local Milton Keynes Food & Leisure Awards.

The Pug & Greyhound, Great Glen, Leicestershire

Previously known as the Old Greyhound, this pub was facing closure and had lost a lot of its gloss. Taking on the business in 2015, Pug Pubs invested considerable sums and has gone on to win awards and been featured on Channel 4’s Four in a Bed. 

Further recent investment has seen the pub renovate its accommodation offer, giving its rooms a brand new boutique hotel look, which has proven a hit, with guest numbers doubling, compared with the previous year. 

Further investments have seen the purchase of a large marquee, which has allowed the business to accommodate events such as wedding receptions, birthday parties and other larger celebrations, more recently a number of wakes, following the opening of a new crematorium down the road.

The Red Lion Inn, South Wales​ 

Taking over the family-run business from her parents, Natalie and Richard Noble have transformed a business that was on its knees. Despite being in the family since the late 1970s, the Red Lion Inn, at Penderyn, south Wales, had run out of steam, however, the couple have injected fresh enthusiasm and fresh capital in the business, increasing turnover more than tenfold each week with the creation of a cracking food offer and restaurant extension. Bringing in a top chef, the pub, already renowned for its great real ale offer, has now built a first-rate food operation and word is quickly getting around.

With strong plans for the future, which could see the couple add accommodation as well as develop the outside space and build a microbrewery, this is certainly a business that has turned a corner and is on the path to great success.

Rumba, Macclesfield, Cheshire  

This business had gone through a number of incarnations, and names, prior to the arrival of Chris Carsons. He took on a tired, run-down operation that had seen little to no investment in many years and created a vibrant, reggae and rum-themed operation, which has seen takings increase tenfold. 

Following a significant investment, the pub reopened as Rumba and has been a hit. Carsons describes the bar as “all reggae” and it features a fish tank, rum-barrel furniture and surfboards for tables.

This bar has an impressive range of rums, with 175 varieties on offer, out of a total of 217 spirits. A top range of 50 great cocktails completes the set.

Rum tastings have proven a huge hit, and are set to move from being held on a quarterly basis to one a month.

Tower Bar, Lincoln

Taking over the bar in 2014, the operators of Lincoln-based Tower Bar have gone on to transform the venue from operating at a loss to one that is now profitable. 

Despite being built in 2008, and considered to be state of the art at the time, the site had not been maintained and was simply left to deteriorate, with uncomfortable furniture that was ripped and stained, televisions that did not work and regulars that by and large were not welcome at other pubs in the city. 

Since then, a significant investment has seen the bar given an impressive makeover, replacing all furnishings and lighting, and installing 12 new £4,000 television screens. 

A refocus on food and drink has seen the business bring more emphasis to current consumer trends and a more locally sourced policy, which has proved popular with customers.

The Vicarage Freehouse and Rooms, Holmes Chapel, Cheshire

Some people like a challenge, and for Oliver and Dominic Heywood, starting with the first site in their Flat Cap Hotels concept, they decided to take on a big one! Starting with a property that had been left derelict since 2010, the pair found themselves with a 17th-century Grade II-listed building featuring no electricity, heating, plumbing or flooring, let alone any staff. 

From a blank canvas, a grand and stylish inn has been created, combining a pub-restaurant with 20 rooms that range from the quirkily boutique to the comfortably modern.

Their impressive design is appropriately sensitive to the old building and they have made good use of original features, notably the glass floor that looks down on the wine cellar.

Tickets for The Great British Pub Awards can be bought by phoning 01293 846508. For more information about the awards, visit its dedicated website. 

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