Restaurant’s fury at name take landlord

Stewarts' restaurant in Penicuik
Stewarts' restaurant in Penicuik

A restaurant owner has expressed his anger after his former landlord re-opened his former Penicuik premises under his business’s name.

Award-winning Stewarts’ Bar and Grill closed its John Street restaurant last month. Now its manager Chris Stewart (42) is furious that his landlord there, Belhaven, re-opened the premises last Saturday under the same name while it “reviews options for the site”.

Mr Stewart still runs the very similarly named Stewarts’ Bar and Kitchen in nearby Loanhead.

Mr Stewart admitted he had a “difficult two years with the brewery”, adding: “Eventually we agreed an exit strategy with them and part of the arrangements was they were to change the signage and branding. Obviously they are not doing that and have opened as Stewarts’ Bar and Grill.

“I phoned the area manager who said she had told us they would have to open as Stewarts’ for a while. I told her we will issue them with a letter from our solicitor to say they can’t trade until this is sorted out.”

Mr Stewart’s Penicuik restaurant was open for two and a half years, and named the home of the best burger in Scotland at the Scottish Entertainment and Hospitality Awards in 2017.

Mr Stewart had hoped to build on that success when he opened his Loanhead premises on Fountain Place in December last year, but he has now been left frustrated by the name grab in Penicuik.

He said: “We have not got a trademark on the name. However, we have got two years’ trading history which is stronger than any trademark.

“The aspirations were to build an empire but this has scunnered me.

“We don’t want to jeopardise anyone taking on the premises going forward, but what would anyone else do in my situation? After giving your all for two and a half years it’s hard to watch someone just walk in and run it with the same name. It’s completely out of order.”

The restaurateur is concerned that all of his hard work will be for nothing thanks to his former premises in Penicuik operating under the same name. Mr Stewart said: “The big worry for us is the unit in Loanhead. There is definitely a conflict of interest. We are very brand conscience. This was a long-term investment for us. We wanted to create a brand. It leaves a bad taste. It’s my surname as well as the brand we have built up over the last few years. I was there working 90 hours a week. It’s heartbreaking to sit and watch this happen.”

Mr Stewart is now in London working as an operations manger in the hospitality trade, while his wife Lorna runs the Loanhead restaurant.

He said: “We need to sit down and decide how we will approach this. This could ultimately result in us having to close Loanhead down. If people think the two restaurants are still connected it will be detrimental to us.

“And they are unquestionably going to be taking bookings based on our success.

“It’s not fair on the customers. It’s misleading them.”

A spokesperson for Belhaven said: “A temporary tenant is currently in place at our pub, Stewarts’ Bar and Grill, with the pub retaining its existing signage, while we review options for the site.”