Pub dream over for Bison boys

Nick Vardy, Simon Duddington, and Jack Creagan - of the Bison Arms SUS-160127-155149001
Nick Vardy, Simon Duddington, and Jack Creagan - of the Bison Arms SUS-160127-155149001

Plans for a crowdfunded craft beer pub at the entrance to The Lanes have fallen apart after an agreement over the lease failed.

The team behind The Bison Arms said it was a ‘hugely disappointing end’ to the project, and confirmed the £150,000 raised by the community would be returned to supporters.

The Bison Arms team outside Clarendon Mansions SUS-170629-103921001

The Bison Arms team outside Clarendon Mansions SUS-170629-103921001

The idea was sparked in late 2015 by Bison Beer owners Jack Cregan and Nick Vardy, and Simon Duddington of the Bottom’s Rest pub, after a campaign to stop Burger King taking on the old Mariner pub at Clarendon Mansions.

The application for the East Street site by Burger King was turned down by planners, and Bison Beer hoped to open by summer 2016. Several local businesses got on board, including Yelo Architects and the 64 Degrees restaurant.

But 18 months of negotiations with the leaseholder Whitbread and the landlord came to nothing.

Mr Duddington said: “This has been a monumental journey and for all the frustrations and wasted personal time, energy and money, we’ve been fortunate enough to meet some great new people. We will now look to the future with lessons learned, ready for a new challenge.”

Clarendon Mansions at the end of East Street

Clarendon Mansions at the end of East Street

He thanked investors and partners in the project, and said: “Words cannot express the thanks we have to everyone that helped us reach this point of agreement.”

Stuart Lauchlan of the Clarendon Mansions Residents Association, which represents residents living above the pub, spoke of the group’s disappointment after working with The Bison Arms team. He said: “From the beginning of this project, the Bison Arms team engaged with the residents at Clarendon Mansions to ensure that we were kept in the loop and fully up-to-speed on all the plans as they progressed.

“This had led us to hope that the long years of the commercial premises being unused were nearly over, to be replaced by a vibrant, community-centric initiative that would be a positive asset to the Old Town.”

A spokesperson from Whitbread said: “The plans and crowd funding proposals for the Bison Arms showed real ambition and passion so we share in the disappointment that a deal could not be reached with the landlord. We wish Simon, Jack and Nick well for their next challenge.”

The TCI group, which represents the freeholder of the pub, said the landlord’s ‘hands were tied’ by the lease, which runs out in 2019.

In a statement, a TCI spokesperson added: “If the lease expires we will market the property as normal and hope to get an operator professional enough to run a business in this excellent location.”