Boutique leisure operator Saltire Taverns is hunting for more sites in Edinburgh as it prepares to open an extension to its flagship Le Monde complex in George Street.
Managing director and majority shareholder Billy Lowe said Saltire is eyeing up one particular property in the city centre that is currently trading but in need of refurbishment. “We are actively looking,” he added.
The company, which also owns Angels Share in Hope Street, is adding four units to its existing 18 suites at Le Monde. The new two and four-bedroom apartments overlooking Edinburgh Castle will sleep up to 20 additional people, and are due to open next month.
“We are getting a great response at the moment, and we are only marketing them in-house just now,” Lowe said. The £1.4 million extension has been backed by Allied Irish, Saltire’s banker since last year. The switch gave access to finance for expansion, but dented profits in the latest financial year.
Turnover during the 12 months to 31 January rose by 7.5 per cent on the previous year to £7.4m, while operating profit increased by a third to £305,000. But pre-tax profits fell from nearly £136,000 to just £37,000 after repayment of a term loan to its previous bank, Clydesdale.
Trading in the current year is going well, Lowe said, with Angels Share clocking up double-digit growth since the completion of the trams project that has “revived” nightlife in the West End.
“Le Monde is slightly ahead of last year at the moment, and we are hoping to have our best Christmas for the past eight years,” he added. Originally set up in 1997, Saltire previously ran a portfolio of pubs and niche hotels in cities across Scotland. The company was probably best known for its Frankenstein pubs, which were sold to Glendola Leisure in 2011.
Those and other disposals marked a change of direction for Saltire as Lowe began creating high-profile venues offering a “different” late-night experience in the city centre. The Le Monde complex includes bars, dining and a basement club in addition to accommodation, as does the newer Angels Share, which opened in April 2013.
Lowe and his cousin, Kenny Waugh jnr, started out in the industry with Thistle Inns and built up a chain of 23 pubs before selling out to S&N for £20m in 1997. Lowe immediately started again with Saltire, which now employs about 200 people.
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