Historic Leeds pub Whitelock’s trebles turnover since relaunch

(L-R): Whitelocks manager Dave Herbert and owner Edward Mason (Picture: Tom Joy)
(L-R): Whitelocks manager Dave Herbert and owner Edward Mason (Picture: Tom Joy)
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An historic city centre pub has reached £1m turnover since relaunching three years ago.

Whitelock’s Ale House in Leeds - which is celebrating its 300th anniversary this year - was taken over by Edward Mason 2012.

The pub overhauled its food and drink range as part of its revival, leaning heavily on real ale from independent Yorkshire breweries and using independent food suppliers from across the region.

As a result, revenues more than trebled from the £8,000 per week it had previously been taking.

It is now investing £150,000 on refurbishing its current function room, which will be relaunched as a speciality craft beer bar later this year.

Mr Mason said a combination of heritage and contemporary service has helped the business thrive.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s about marrying the sense of tradition and history that the pub oozes with 21st century customer service and marketing.”

Amid the boom of the craft beer in the city, Whitelock’s sets itself apart by offering more traditional cask ales.

“Leeds has a really exciting and vibrant pub, bar and restaurant scene at the moment,” Mr Mason said.

“There are some great venues like Friends of Ham, Bundobust, Tapped and Belgrave Music Hall that have been a real addition to the scene.

“But our focus has traditionally been on cask beer and real ale, and we’ve majored on supporting Yorkshire breweries.”

The boom in independent venues in the city has created a spirit of collaboration that has in turn been an opportunity to boost the venue’s presence in the city, he said.

He said: “There’s such a wide diversity of types of bars and restaurants, and it’s very collaborative.”

Whitelock’s has sponsored the Leeds International Beer Festival in recent years, as well as teaming up with music festival Beacons by hosting the real ale tent at the event’s previous Skipton site.

It was also part of the Leeds Independent Food Festival, which took place through May in the city.

“That was a prime example of a lot of newer businesses and independent businesses in Leeds getting together and creating an event that supported the whole city and independent sector,” he said.

Hospitality entrepreneur Mr Mason came to Leeds as a student in 1989.

Having previously been behind a number of well-known venues - including the HiFi Club and The Faversham, near University of Leeds - he saw Whitelock’s as a great opportunity.

But despite its heritage, Whitelocks’ then-owners had failed to find a buyer for 18 months.

“When I found out, I couldn’t believe it,” Mr Mason said.

“It had fallen on hard times. The heart wasn’t in it anymore.

“Pubgoers have different expectations to the way pubs might have been run 30 years ago in terms of quality of service, quality of food, quality of drinks and the customer experience.”

In addition to Whitelock’s, Mr Mason also owns The Deramore Arms in Hesslington, York, as well as Five Points Brewing Company, based in Hackney, London.

Mr Mason is currently in negotiations with Whitelocks’ landlord, Spirit Pub Company, to enable the bar to sell products from Five Points alongside its Yorkshire ales.

This week, Whitelock’s kicks off a programme of events planned to mark its 300th anniversary. From Thursday July 23 to Sunday July 26, it will host a beer festival celebrating the best breweries from around the country.

Mr Mason said: “It feels an appropriate celebration of 300 years to toast the British brewing scene.”

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At 300 years old, Whitelocks is older than the USA.

The boozer was first licensed as the Turk’s Head in 1715. The alleyway off Briggate - Turk’s Head Yard - reflects its history.

The Whitelock family acquired the pub in 1867, renaming the venue Whitelock’s First City Luncheon Bar in the mid-1890s, installing its current decor in 1886.

The pub was sold by the Whitelocks in the 1940s. Two decades later, the venue’s heritage was recognised with Grade II-listed status in 1963.

It was awarded a blue plaque recognising its historical significance from Leeds Civic Trust in 2008.