19th October 2017

Crisis talks as owners look to save Yell’s Hilltop

The future of the Hilltop Bar in Yell is hanging in the balance – unless someone can come forward with new ideas for the venture.

Owners of the pub are organising a public meeting next week in the hope of a community buy-out or similar saving plan.

The pub sits alongside a community shop in the same building, which is said to be performing well in its own right.

But Steven Swan, who runs the Mid Yell business with his sister Sharn, says the closure of the pub would result in the loss of a great community asset.

“The shop itself is performing, but the bar is not and the shop is subsidising the bar,” he said.

“We can’t go on that way. It’s costing us money every day we are open.

“Basically people just don’t drink in pubs any more.”

The Hilltop has also had staffing worries to think about.

Mr Swan said the business had advertised for a new manager, following a decision by existing manager, Nathan Larg, to return south to where he originally came from.

But even with an added incentive of a 50 per cent share of profits, no applications were received.

“Nathan Larg has been with us for probably about three years, but he has just decided to return to Aberdeen,” Mr Swan said.

“He’s suffered an accident with his leg and tore all the ligaments. While he’s been laid up he’s decided that Shetland’s really not for him.

“We’ve been advertising for a manager with a 50 per cent profit share, and we’ve not had a single applicant.

“Staffing is one problem. Finances are another problem, and that is the whole idea of this community meeting.”

Mr Swan said he was keen to put the issue before the community to see if anybody had any of their own ideas.

That could include a community buy-out or a private sale.

“We’re open to any option. We don’t want to close the bar and leave the community without a bar,” he added.

“As little as it’s used, a bar is always the focus of the community.

“We’ve got nothing fixed in our mind other than the bar, as it is, will close very, very shortly unless a plan can be come up with.”

Mr Swan has a good deal of experience working in the hospitality industry in the North Isles.

He used to run the Baltasound Hotel but admitted he struggled to cope with the level of diners the Unst establishment was getting.

“The Hilltop Bar in Yell was up for sale, so we bought it with the intention of re-establishing the restaurant there.

“It never, ever worked, and it’s just deteriorated ever since, and the Baltasound Hotel subsidised this for all the time we owned it.”

The Baltasound was subsequently sold in 2016. Then, just over three months ago, the restaurant in the Hilltop was turned into a community shop “which is doing very well in its own right”.

The public meeting is taking place on Wednesday at 7.30pm in the Mid Yell Hall.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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