Hope for Bison Arms as Burger King plan rejected

Nick Vardy and Jack Cregan of Bison Beer
Nick Vardy and Jack Cregan of Bison Beer

Future of the Mariner pub site remains uncertain.

Neighbours described the rejection of a Burger King application for the Mariner pub, as an “early Christmas present”.

The ground floor of Clarendon Mansions - which was home to the Mariner pub - is set to be the home of The Bison Arms

The ground floor of Clarendon Mansions - which was home to the Mariner pub - is set to be the home of The Bison Arms

But Bison Beer, which is working with the Bottom’s Rest pub to take over the site on East Street, said it isn’t the end of the fight to stop Burger King from opening in The Lanes.

In response to a 11,500-strong petition opposing the fast-food chain opening in The Lanes, Bison Beer and Bottom’s Rest came up with an alternative for the site: The Bison Arms.

Their mission statement is to “revive 80 East Street, Brighton, as a pub specialising in craft beer, local beer, championing the best of what’s local including trades, artists, illustrators, writers and chefs to help us create this community-based business.”

But they must raise £100,000 through a crowdfunding website by February 2 (and invest another £100,000 of their own money), if their dream is to be realised.

Jack Cregan, co-owner of Bison Beer, said: “Although we have raised £40,000, unless we get to £100,000 by February 2, we get nothing, the money just gets refunded.”

Mr Cregan and his colleague Nick Vardy, teamed up with Simon Duddington of the Bottom’s Rest pub to come up with the idea for the Bison Arms.

Already, they are in talks with local architects, designers and restaurants who want to get on board - including the award-winning 64 Degrees, a restaurant in The Lanes.

Mr Cregan said if they hit the crowdfunder target next month, “we need to make sure we’re ready,” before another application is submitted for Burger King.

Investors rewards go from “pour your own pint and a hug”, all the way up to brewing your own beer.

With £60,000 still to raise, The Bison Arms campaign will hold one final push in the form of the Stand Up For The Bison Arms comedy night on January 30. Find out more, here: on.fb.me/1JYY8wm

But what happened to the Burger King application?

In September, Daryl Stutchbury, who formerly ran the Burger King at Aquarium Terraces, submitted a planning application for Clarendon Mansions. The ground-floor has been empty for four years after the sudden closure of the Mariner pub.

The application was for the installation of three air conditioning units, two chiller and freezer condenser units, and “other associated alterations” in the Grade II-listed building - and Burger King was mentioned in the plans.

But just before Christmas, council officers rejected the application. The council decision report said: “The proposed external plant by virtue of its siting, scale and excessive number of units would result in harm to the appearance and character of the listed building.”

This came as welcome news to residents living in Clarendon Mansions (above the ground floor, there are four storeys containing 12 flats which are all occupied).

Stuart Lauchlan chair of Clarendon Mansions Residents Association, said: “The council’s rejection of the Burger King application was a very welcome Christmas present for us.

“We’re supportive of the Bison Arms initiative as a genuine community asset for Brighton and the Old Town. In addition, we’ve been very pleased to meet with the team behind the scheme who have sought to include us and consult with us from the very start to ensure that all parties are involved and all interests represented.

“This is in stark contrast to Mr Stuchbury who, months after putting in his application, has not engaged in any dialogue with us as residents or, to the best of my knowledge, with our neighbours in the Old Town.”

The future of the old Mariner pub is still uncertain.

If The Bison Arms hits the £100,000 target, Mr Cregan said he believes it will be in a position to take on the 25-year lease from current leaseholder Whitbread. If it does not hit the target, investors will be refunded, and the empty pub will remain derelict.

The Brighton and Hove Independent contacted Mr Stutchbury’s agent Butler Associates, who declined to comment.