Lancaster pub boss forced out as brewery steps in

From left, Sam Warren, Mark Cutter and Mark Wildman provide free soup at The Robert Gillow in Lancaster
From left, Sam Warren, Mark Cutter and Mark Wildman provide free soup at The Robert Gillow in Lancaster

Over the last five years the Robert Gillow pub in Lancaster has built up a strong reputation as a community hub and music venue.

Musicians perform there seven days a week, there’s free food on offer for all, and it is used as a base for many different projects that benefit the community in the city.

Mark Cutter with staff from Tesco in Carnforth and their recent delivery.

Mark Cutter with staff from Tesco in Carnforth and their recent delivery.

But things are set to change later this year after owner Hydes Brewery announced it will be taking the lease back from landlord Mark Cutter and installing a new manager, with changes to the style and offer of the pub to follow.

Mark, who has been landlord at the King Street pub for five years, said there was nothing he could do, but vowed to set up a similar pub venue elsewhere in the city.

He said he met with the managing director of Hydes last year, who told him the company had plans to take the pub back. Mark declined, and agreed instead to pay more rent in return for less of a tie on the beer he bought and sold.

He said: “They came back to me in January, and then they gave us notice on April 1 that they would be taking control on October 31, because they’re going to develope the site.

“There’s nothing I can do about it and over the last five years we’ve got the weekly turnover from £1,500 to nearly £8,000. However the brewery has been very clear they it won’t continue our community and music programmes.”

Paul Mercer, area manager for Salford based Hydes, said: “What we’ve decided to do is take the pub back as a Hydes house.

“We’ll be tidying it up and we’re looking for a beer oriented manager to take over the running of the pub.

“Things have been very challenging business wise over the last couple of months at The Robert Gillow. It’s a tough market and there’s a lot of competition in Lancaster.

“We feel we want to go in a slightly different direction, and would like to put more emphasis on our own beers.

“We’ve agreed a timescale for taking it on for after Lancaster Music Festival. We’re looking for someone local that knows Lancaster, and the local breweries, because we would still like to work with them.”

Mark said that nothing would change in terms of community projects until October 31, and he hoped to be set up with a similar venue by then.

He has recently taken on the licence for The Apothecary in Penny Street.

He added: “My plan is to set up a ‘Robert Gillow Two’ in the city. Our commitment is to our free food project, and the 600 customers we feed every week. What we’ve built here is something unique, and has support from the community and police.

“Ironically, we’re now through to the second round for community pub and music pub of the year in the Great British Pub Awards.”