How the famous Yorkshire Dales hotel The Tennant Arms in Kilnsey has fought back from pandemic under new owner

FOR centuries, The Tennant Arms has been a landmark in the Yorkshire Dales, providing refuge and company for drovers, coachmen and tourists.

When it closed last year due to the financial impact of Covid, many feared that time had been called on one of the best loved pubs in North Yorkshire.

It is now enjoying a new lease of life after businesswoman Kirsty Ridge, the Managing Director of INNO Hospitality Collective, re-opened it before Christmas, creating 16 jobs.

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The hotel and bar in Kilnsey closed in September after the previous owners struggled to recover from the effects of the pandemic.

The Tennant Arms is based in the historic Yorkshire Dales hamlet of Kilnsey

But Ms Ridge, who already oversees the operation of six venues across two businesses, could see its potential and was determined to revive it and provide a boost for a rural economy which has been badly shaken by the impact of Covid.

She said: “As soon as I heard about The Tennants, I had an immediate feeling it was the right venue for the INNO Hospitality Collective.

“Everything about it, from its location to decor and the esteem with which it’s held in the community made it so appealing.

“It feels wonderful to be reopening a venue that is loved by so many and we will be looking to build upon the great reputation it had achieved before sadly falling victim to the pandemic.

Kirsty Ridge, the Managing Director of INNO Hospitality Collective

“Creating new opportunities for local communities is something I am passionate about, so to be able to provide employment for up to 16 people is great. We’re really looking forward becoming a part of an amazing community.”

“It is such a beautiful building with huge potential. The previous tenant, Tom Garland Jones, did such a great job and was unfortunate that the effects of the pandemic were felt so deeply in the hospitality trade. We look forward to continuing his great work.”

INNO Hospitality Collective is one of two pub groups owned and operated by Ms Ridge.

The second, Lakeland Inns, has been successfully trading in Cumbria and the Lake District for a number of years. The Tavern at Hale, in Milnthorpe is also part of the Collective, with a third venue set to be added soon.

Ms Ridge clearly believes that business must be conducted with a human face. She takes great pride in the obstacles she has overcome and the jobs created as she built up her business empire.

“There were two things that attracted us to the Tennant Arms,’’ she said: “The first thing was the location which is absolutely fantastic in an area that attracts a lot of visitors.

“The second factor was the fact it has lots of space. We have found over the years that the pubs which have been the most successful are the ones that can seat people in different areas, so they can become multiple purpose venues. It also means the pub is large enough to look after locals and visitors.

“We did a soft opening of the Tennant Arms over Christmas with a high quality menu.

“It’s been a great opportunity to get to know local people and people have been telling us about the things they really like about the pub.”

Few bosses can claim to have a more wide-ranging knowledge of the hospitality sector.

She recalled “I started working as a pot-washer in a local hotel, the Boaters Bar in the Lake District, when I was 13.

“You really can’t beat the buzz of being in a busy successful venue, where visitors and staff are really enjoying themselves.

“When I left school at 16, I initially worked in beauty therapy and, by the age of 19, I was a spa manager. I then worked for Estee Lauder in London, which was a really good experience because it provided an insight into the drive and hard work that running your own business entails.

“In my current role, I never get what would normally be considered to be a day off,’’ she said. “I’ve got two little girls who are four and another girl on the way, and I want to provide them with a positive role model for what a woman in business can achieve."

Along with her business partner Scott Mackenzie, she took over their first pub, The Sun Inn, in 2015, and after completing a refurbishment, the reopening was a huge success.

She said: “We took over a family business which had been hit hard by the recession and we both gave up our jobs in order to make a go of it.”

Initially, she had no formal business training, although she used online resources for self-improvement.

“I’m largely self-taught; I studied a lot of Youtube videos about how to use accountancy software,’ she said. “But I’ve always believed a lot of it is down to common sense.

“I’ve had experience of virtually every element of hospitality. I can still see what’s happening at each venue using software without being inside them.

“I have two other directors in Inno Hospitality Collective, Callum O’Hare, my partner, and Charlotte Hargan, a long standing employee who I gave a shareholding to as a ‘thank you’ for her commitment to me and the company.”

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Famous Yorkshire Dales hotel The Tennant Arms in Kilnsey to re-open, creating 16...

She is often approached by people who believe she might be interested in taking on pubs, but she is very particular about the types of venues she might be interested in.

She added: “They have got to have accommodation and be in a great location. The impact of the pandemic has been horrendous. The most difficult part is having to constantly pivot, to work out what to do next in response to restrictions.

“A lot of time and resources have gone into trying to anticipate what might happen next. We had a very successful summer as visitors returned to the Lake District. However, Christmas was wiped out for us as people became more cautious due to Omicron.

“Instead of grants to the hospitality sector, it might have been better if the Government had introduced a flexible furlough scheme.

“It can be a very difficult industry to work in, with lots of cash flow problems, which is why some smaller pubs have closed.

“You have to be constantly on the ball. There’s no real secret to being successful, it’s all down to sheer determination and hard work.

"I want my little girls to see that work is never a chore if you love what you do. Perhaps the best thing is knowing that you’re providing so much employment. We employ 170 staff and 90 per cent are based locally.”

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Thank you

James Mitchinson