Heineken agree to 'review' controversial plans to turn historic Otley pubs into trendy bars

The Black Bull in Otley
The Black Bull in Otley
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Campaigners have successfully persuaded beer giant Heineken to back down over their plans to convert two of Otley's oldest pubs into city centre-style bars.

The brewery, under their Star Pubs and Clubs arm, now own the Black Bull and White Swan - both historic coaching inns that have served the town for centuries.

In March they revealed plans to turn the hostelries into trendy, city-style bars with industrial furniture, open plan seating and a steakhouse menu.

The proposals caused outrage among members of preservation society Otley Pub Club, who demanded to meet with representatives of Star.

The company has now agreed to review its plans and instead look at sympathetic restoration of the Grade II-listed inns.

The Black Bull dates back to the 16th century and was visited by Oliver Cromwell's Roundhead army before the Battle of Marston Moor during the English Civil War.

Over the years a wealth of historic finds have been made there, including an 18th-century well and water pump which were discovered in 2003, a 16th-century stone fireplace uncovered during building work in 1971, and what is thought to have been the original door from the Market Place to the building dating from before it became a public house.

In 2006, the Kay Mellor TV drama The Chase, which was set in a family-run veterinary practice, was filmed in the Black Bull.

The White Swan is 250 years old.

Opposition also centred around the belief that the turnover projections for both pubs were unrealistic given the local competition and the fact that both had tried food service in the past with little success.

Star and Otley Pub Club met on April 25.

The owners committed to design a refurbishment plan with 'a more historic and traditional feel' for the Black Bull and will reconsider their wish to rip out internal walls and offer a food menu at the White Swan.

The campaigners will continue to exert pressure on Star to offer fair rent and beer pricing to ensure landlords can make a success of the pubs.

Otley Pub Club president Greg Mulholland said:-

“It’s great news that Star Pubs and Bars have agreed to reconsider and revise their plans for both the White Swan and the Black Bull in Otley, this is very positive news and we are hopeful that this means that the proposals for both pubs will be appropriate for these two historic pubs.

“We thank Star Pubs and Bars for engaging with Otley Pub Club and the wider community, following our campaign, and are pleased that they are will discuss with the current licensees of both pubs to discuss how best to invest in each of them, celebrating the history and heritage as well as assisting each pub being as successful as possible. We will continue to press Star to understand that the White Swan is a thriving community pub and must remain so and we hope their plans will involve building on that and working with Chris Shippey, who has shown himself to be an excellent and popular landlord who has built up the business and a very loyal clientele. We look forward to working with Star, as Otley’s biggest pub owner and hope that all their pubs succeed, with the right offer, the right licensee and fair and realistic terms."

In another change to the local pub scene, Leeds music venue Brudenell Social Club and Kirkstall Brewery have bought the Black Horse Hotel on Westgate, which dates from 1902, and plan to turn it into a craft ale bar with regular live music.