Sunday, June 26, 2005

Smoke on the water

on the Irish smoking ban

The Irish smoking ban has been a great success. Pubs are as busy as ever and trade is hardly affected. People wanting to smoke are happy to stand outside and instead of smoke, the pubs smell of...


The Irish smoking ban has been a total disaster. The few pubs that haven't closed have seen trade drop by as much as 60% and are suffering real hardship so...

Which is correct


It seeems to depend on where you are and who you listen to.

It's true that pubs in major citites are still busy. We haven't been to Ireland since the ban was introduced, so we don't have first hand experience of the situation. The two points of view above are approximations of the Scottish Executive's opinion and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.

I've heard that in rural areas, the pubs have closed and people simply have a party at someone's barn each weekend. The drink's cheaper (you can buy it cheaper in your local supermarket than I can) and you can smoke.

So what's going to happen here?

Well, first of all the pub trade is in decline anyway. Our Saturday customers are folk whose average age is 60 who have been coming here for decades. There's no one to replace them.
But we're not a pub. We're a hotel with a public bar (and two other bars) and this helps.

A lot

After our renovations we will have as many as 13 rooms. Even assuming 50% occupancy that gives a decent income without any bar trade and for considerably less work. Food is profitable too, as long as kitchen management is good.

And it's worth noting that paying guests will also use the bar. Sometimes so much so that the bar tab is more than the cost of the room.

On a totally unrelated note, We see that the Colquhonnie Hotel in Strathdon is for sale. It was for sale 8 months ago when we were looking for a place. The owners (John and Sally) were nice folk who apparently still live in the village. I don't know what happened, but the new owners seem to have lasted the winter and no more.

A lot of people think "I'm fed up of the 9 to 5, let's buy a hotel" You see them on these silly lifestyle tv programmes that I used to transmit in a previous incarnation as a (rather unsuccessful) tv engineer. They then buy a hotel and realise that it's now 7.45 to 00.30 and you DON'T get a day off.

A lot of hotels get sold after a year.

Think about that if you're considering it. We both worked silly hours in previous jobs, so it wasn't much of a change. Do you want to be able to attend family parties? Do you want to have an evening out? You won't be able to for the first 3 years anyway. I missed my cousin's wedding a couple of weeks ago because it was on a Saturday night and there was no way we could get staff to cover.

We have been here for 8 months now. We're just getting to grips with it and survived our first major function (a double 18th) without any major mishap. We're also heading into the busiest season and that's going to be an interesting learning experience.

Again, for people thinking of doing this - If you have no experience then look to take over the place in winter (unless you're in a ski resort of course) because you'll have the quiet period to learn the business and people and by the time it gets busy you MIGHT have just got a clue about what you're doing.

We'll see. Stay tuned for further developments.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The present

For nine people I cooked 7 portions of bacon (correct), four sausages (two left) two pieces of black pudding (correct) and two pieces of haggis (half left). Mushies and eggs are cooked on demand.
"I'm getting better at predicting what people want for breakfast" I suggested
"Sheer luck" said Lorna
She's probably right - she usually is:-)

I've finally identified what the the noise from the extractor fan reminds me of.
If you've ever sat right at the back of a DC9 - that's pretty much the same pitch and level. We'll be getting a new extraction system as part of the kitchen refit and frankly it can't come soon enough.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Future

Let's be clear. The future of the Spread Eagle does not lie in the public bar. If we're going to be successful we need to have residents who are doing more than "passing though" and who are staying more than one night. Fishermen, Golfers and people interested in blowing the heads off small furry animals. We also need to do food and this is becoming more apparent than ever. We are going to get the kitchen refurbished (one of the few things Historic Scotland will allow us to do without planning permission), we need to do all meals (teas, coffees, bar meals and dinners) from the start and we need to do them well. In short, we need to recruit a competent team for the kitchen and we need to do it soon.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


The office is being taken over by paperwork. I am afraid to go in in case I am engulfed.
L is trying new filing, organisational and time management techniques and we're trying to find a system that works for both of us - not an easy task given that we work in very different ways.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

A moving tale

I was in the Glasgow flat on Sunday night to let the removal men in first thing on Monday morning. I never slept well in the flat and Sunday night was no exception. So by the time the removal van had headed off I was barely able to stay awake. A double espresso at Harthill kept me going until Lauder where I stopped for 40 mins kip.

The furniture's all in the residents' lounge. Well, what did you expect? EVERYTHING's in the residents' lounge (probably including Lord Lucan).
The woodstove has accidentally ended up in the residents' lounge too (it was meant to go into one of the outbuildings) so we may have it installed there.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Ringing in the ears

The telephone's gone into meltdown today, so we've diverted all calls to the other line and are using a rather crackly radio phone as our only link with the outside world.

Just finished breakfast (only 6 today) while L is on the phone to her Sis in South Africa to wish her happy birthday. I have the lounge bar to clear and then a quick stocktake after which I'm off to Glasgow to get the remaining stuff removed from our Glasgow flat.

Long daze

Up at 7 to let the workmen in, then breakfast for 9, then reset the breakfast room, then strip and reset three bedrooms, then setup the bar, then work in the public bar until 7 when Zoe comes in, then work in public bar until 12 while live music session goes on upstairs, then setup for breakfast, then fall over zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Use of rooms

We don't have any single rooms. We charge a small amount more for single occupancy - it probably should be higher, but at the current level of trading any booking is welcome.

That said, we were full at the weekend. Last night we had 5 folk, spread across 4 rooms. Three don't want breakfast and one left at 6am. So there's only one breakfast to do.

Raining again. Looks like the middle of winter:-(