A Family Bar & Restaurant Injecting Life into the High Street

18 Feb 2019

At a time when businesses are struggling to survive on the high street, a businesswoman with steely determination has opened a sports bar and an American-style diner on Irvine High Street. Much to the delight of the locals and residents from surrounding areas, R&A Sports Bar and Restaurant opened its doors to the public in 2017 and has since been growing from strength to strength.

With the initial sports bar and American-style diner proving to be a huge success, the owners successfully secured a £50,000 loan from Business Loans Scotland, enabling them to carry out a complete renovation of the first floor of the premises to create a stunning new function suite.

From the start, owners Rosemary Reid and Alex Harper were looking for an ideal location with ample space that would appeal to a diverse clientele to begin their new venture.  With a shared passion for sports, good food and bringing people together, the couple who previously owned a tea room, wanted a business that had the potential to grow and develop.

When they found the premises in Irvine, it was dilapidated and they needed advice and help to get the project moving forward.  With support and advice from Team North Ayrshire’s Business Adviser, they managed to get a Change of Use for the building to operate a licensed bar, restaurant and function suite.  They were also supported through their initial loan application from the West of Scotland Loan Fund (now Business Loan Scotland) to help towards the initial purchase and the renovation of the building.

Once trading commenced and the popularity of the bar and restaurant grew, they felt the time was right to expand their offering to customers.  They successfully applied for a £50,000 loan from Business Loans Scotland (BLS) to help them renovate the first floor to create a 250-capacity function suite ideal for weddings and other celebrations.  This function suite is an addition to a suite on the ground floor which is already being used for smaller functions and children’s parties.

The BLS loan will help fund this major expansion which will grow their customer base and bring in a much welcomed cash injection and customers into Irvine.  Team North Ayrshire has been crucial in supporting their business. Rosemary elaborates, “Team North Ayrshire has been instrumental not only in our loan applications but also in terms of giving us business advice, helping us with ideas and supporting us with external consultancy.  With their help we have also taken on an Apprentice through the Modern Apprenticeship scheme.  This level of support has been invaluable to us in these early stages of the business.”

With such a promising start, this ambitious couple are keen to grow their business from strength to strength.  They realise their biggest asset is their employees so they plan to ensure that they are trained to CPD level.  They also want to continue diversifying their business and developing their branding and marketing.  As a family business they are keen to help kick start young people’s careers and want to work with local government agencies and organisations to achieve this.  Their commitment to supporting employment in the local area is clearly demonstrated in the 23 members of staff they currently employ. 

Rosemary stresses, “Our challenge is keeping a diverse range of customers happy and giving them what they are looking for without losing our own integrity.   We are keen for local businesses working together to support each other for the good and growth of Irvine.  We are local people investing a huge amount of money into our community and supporting each other is crucial for not only the success of all our individual businesses but also for the future of our town.”

With noble aspirations and a will to succeed, R & A Sports Bar and Restaurant was awarded ‘Best Sports Bar’ at the 2018 Scottish Entertainment Awards, beating off stiff completion from larger, more established Glasgow bars, making good on its promise of turning the tide on Irvine High Street.

Speaking of the loan awarded, Fund Manager for Business Loans Scotland, Andrew Dickson said:

“I am absolutely delighted that Business Loans Scotland has been able to support R&A Sports Bar and Restaurant. I wish them well in growing their business and look forward to watching them develop and flourish. I am also delighted that Business Loans Scotland has been appointed as one of the Fund Managers under the Scottish Growth Scheme and look forward to being able to support many more Scottish businesses, like R&A Sports Bar and Restaurant, access debt finance.”