Edinburgh institution Harry’s Bar gets new social lease of life

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21st July 2016 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

An Edinburgh institution has been given a new lease of life – as the city’s latest social enterprise.

Harry’s Bar, in the capital’s busy west end, first opened in the ‘80s and quickly became legendary among the city’s pubgoers for its vibrant atmosphere and bustling dancefloor.

However, after almost 30 years, the Randolph Place venue was forced to close after an unsuccessful relaunch.

Now it’s been re-opened with an emphasis on supporting good causes and helping young people gain access to long-term employment.

The man behind the bar’s rebirth is social entrepreneur Chris Thewlis, who runs social pub company Beer for Good.

Thewlis said he wants to “bring Harry’s Bar back to what it was – a great place to go for good food and quality drink”.

Equally as important to though, is that his pubs and bars give something back to the wider community. 

People have had enough of faceless organisations that don’t give anything back to the community - Chris Thewlis

He said: “There’s a real need for sustainable, social enterprises.

“Long gone are the Andrew Ushers and the Mr McEwans.

“People have had enough of faceless organisations that don’t give anything back to the community.”

As part of Beer For Good’s sustainable, social ethos, the bar sources as much as possible from other social enterprises.

“Our soap comes from Cope in Shetland, we use Heroes Vodka, we’ll have Brewgooder beer when it’s ready, our bread comes from Breadshare and our recycling and cleaning is done by Changeworks,” Mr Thewlis said.

“Wherever possible, we try to work with other social enterprises.”

Even the weekend doorstaff come from social enterprise organisation GTS Solutions, another of Mr Thewlis’ ventures.  

Harry’s Bar is Beer for Good’s second venue in Edinburgh, after the opening of Edinburgh’s first social enterprise pub, the Southside Social, in 2015.

Like its sister bar, Harry’s provides an impressive range of training and development opportunities to its staff, giving them the opportunity to forge careers in the hospitality sector.

“Many of our staff have been referred to us by a partner agency,” Mr Thewlis said.

“Some of them have had a tough start to life. Our aim is to give them the opportunity to gain skills in hospitality and a strong foundation upon which to build a career.”

Staff are offered 30 modules of on-the-job training, covering all aspects of hospitality from food hygiene to first aid.

A further 12 classroom-based modules are also available along with educational trips to breweries and distilleries and wine tasting courses.  

Thewlis said the scheme benefits both staff members, who learn valuable skills, and the industry as a whole, by replacing a traditionally transient workforce with people who want to make careers in hospitality.

Harry’s Bar opened in late June, and is “ticking along nicely”, said Mr Thewlis – who is already planning his next venture.

“Eventually we plan to have seven venues across five Scottish cities,” he said, “but Harry’s is the big thing at the moment”.