Heineken serves round of Scots pub revamps with seven-figure injection

A digitally generated image of The Optimist in Inverness - known as Blackfriars before its forthcoming revamp. Picture: contributed.
A digitally generated image of The Optimist in Inverness - known as Blackfriars before its forthcoming revamp. Picture: contributed.
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Drinks giant Heineken, which operates its UK arm from Edinburgh, is investing a seven-figure sum in its Star Pubs & Bars estate in Scotland this year, creating nearly 100 jobs.

The drinks firm, whose brands include Strongbow, Foster’s and Bulmers, said the £4 million injection will focus on “big, bold refurbishments” and generate 92 jobs in pubs.

The move continues the upgrading by the group – which also has Edinburgh’s historic Caledonian Brewery within its portfolio – of its pubs estate north of the Border.

Of the £4m, 60 per cent will go on major revamps of nine pubs with an average spend of £268,000. The planned upgrades will “premiumise what [each site] offers and meet the community’s changing needs and lifestyles, whilst remaining sympathetic to the building’s heritage”.

Pubs of all kinds are to benefit, with most in the Central Belt. Changes include developing food, adding good coffee and upgrading outside spaces.

The company has also identified a further £2.88m of refurbishment projects it would like to undertake at pubs throughout the country.

Sites to receive investment include Blackfriars in Inverness, which closed in 2017 and will undergo a six-month £1.36m refurbishment that starts on site next week.

The sum includes a £689,200 investment by Star Pubs & Bars, a £422,600 grant award by The Inverness Townscape Heritage Project and a £250,000 outlay by the site’s new operator, Billy McAneney.

The work will restore the Grade B 18th century building, with additions including a new kitchen and eight en-suite letting rooms, and it will be renamed The Optimist.

Hospitality veteran McAneney’s current sites include Baby Grand Bar & Grill, Ecco Vino and Ardnamurchan. He said accommodation and “good food” were needed to make it viable as a business. “The changes and the investment required are substantial. It’s great to be part of a project that will reopen such a beautiful old pub and bring it back to life.”

Brian Davidson, Star Pubs & Bars operations director for Scotland, said the overall cash boost “is a sign of our confidence in the future of Scotland’s pubs and our commitment to their success”.

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said: “This investment is further demonstration of the confidence of major companies to continue to invest in Scotland.”

It will create many jobs, and boost Scottish food and drink producers, “who should benefit from more pubs serving locally-sourced produce”.