Social enterprise pub sold to private buyer

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Harry's Bar

Chris Thewlis has sold Beer for Good social enterprise to Anna and Mike Christopherson, who run the Edinburgh Boda Swedish Bars and Restaurant Group

15th October 2018 by Sophie Bell 1 Comment

Edinburgh businessman Chris Thewlis has become Scotland’s first social enterprise entrepreneur to make a viable exit from a company in the sector with his sale of Beer for Good CIC.

The Beer For Good founder has transferred his shares to Swedish businessman Mike Christopherson and his wife Anna. The couple are well known in the capital’s hospitality industry, already owning six bars in the city including Akva, Boda, Hemma and Joseph Pearce’s.

They will now take on responsibility for the entire Beer For Good portfolio, which includes two pubs – the award-winning Harry’s Bar in the city’s west end and Harry’s Southside, and two cafes – Harry’s Courtyard Café at the Craiglockhart Leisure Centre and Harry’s On The Hill at Drumbrae Leisure Centre. The couple intend to continue running the operation as a social enterprise.

Since helping set up Beer For Good, Scotland’s first-ever hospitality social enterprise group, three years ago, Thewlis has transformed it into a successful high-impact business.

He has taken the decision to move on so he can focus fully on the rapidly expanding GTS Solutions, the only social enterprise operating in private security.

Established six years ago by Thewlis, GTS recently announced that its turnover had doubled to £1million in the past 12 months. With growth forecast to hit £5m in the next three years, the chief executive needs more time to devote to its expansion.

“It’s been a remarkable journey with Beer For Good in many ways,” said Thewlis, a Yorkshireman who has lived in Scotland since moving from Huddersfield to study at Napier University in 2008.

“It was great fun creating Scotland’s first hospitality social enterprise group. It was a privilege to help the chain grow since its formation three years ago, delivering on our social mission to help improve people’s lives along the way.

“While very rewarding, it was incredibly time-consuming and with GTS Solutions taking up more and more of my time, and more exciting opportunities on the horizon, I felt this was the time to pass it on to someone else.

“Mike is well positioned to take on the pub side and it was a great opportunity to do a good deal as he intends to keep it going as a social enterprise.

“He is very socially-minded so the whole thing fitted in perfectly. I’m sure it will go from strength to strength with him in charge as he continues to deliver sustainable change in the community.”

Thewlis was voted E2E’s Social Impact Entrepreneur of the Year at the company’s recent Edinburgh awards.

A mentor to Big Society Capital and board member of Social Enterprise Scotland, he added: “This deal shows that the CIC model works; that a viable exit from a social enterprise is possible if the proper groundwork is put in.

“The social enterprise sector is thriving in Scotland at the moment and we remain a world leader in the field.

“GTS is a prime example of this and is going very strongly. That’s where I see my future and I’m very excited about what lies ahead.”

25th October 2018 by Zoe

This is a seriously disturbing development for the Social Enterprise sector as a whole; that an individual can gain monetarily from the ‘sale’ via shares of an organisation that has a social purpose and mission. If the sale of shares was reinvested back into the Social Enterprise imagine how many more people could be supported and helped.This is now a loophole that needs closed via the CIC regulator and possibly there is something about the CIC by shares structure that doesn’t work or fit with values of how other Social Enterprises like to operate.It’s pretty disgusting that this has happened quite frankly. Let’s have further discussions in the sector on how we prevent this from happening again.