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Bears hunt down historic North Yorkshire venue for latest venture

Popular Knaresborough restaurant and bar, Carriages, has been acquired by a team of talented local entrepreneurs following its closure due to administration earlier this year.

Sam Pullan, founder and head chef of alternative event catering business, Bears Pantry, together with partner and brother-in-law, John Dixon, founder and operator of Craft Bar, a mobile craft bar and cocktails specialist, have joined forces to take over and launch “The Bear at Carriages”, breathing new life into the venue in the market town.

The new venture promises to deliver a completely different style of hospitality designed to compete with the restaurant and bar scenes of nearby Harrogate, York and Leeds.

The Bear at Carriages will be a family-based business with Sam taking the lead in the kitchen with John as managing and operations director. Sam’s partner Nicole Deighton and John’s wife, Victoria, will both be actively involved in day to day operations. The venture will create a number of local jobs ranging from bar and waiting staff to a full team working with Sam in the kitchen.

Rich Kendrick, a member of the “Bears family” for over five years, is relocating to Knaresborough and will be general manager. Rich has over 20 years’ experience running bars and restaurants in Yorkshire and has worked closely with Sam running popular industrial design bistro Bears Den in Bradford for the past two years.

Carriages is probably Knaresborough’s most well-known bar/restaurant and was hugely popular for a number of years under owner Chris Richardson. Most recently under the stewardship of the Straker family, owners of William & Victoria’s wine bar in Harrogate, the venue has suffered from difficult trading conditions and was forced into administration following closure in February

The name Carriages comes from its location in a listed building above a Victorian train tunnel on the Harrogate to York train line. The new owners plan to retain the character of the building and preserve its heritage whilst still introducing their own contemporary twist, a touch that Bears Pantry is famed for.

Sam Pullan said: “We had been on the hunt for a suitable venue to get up and running for some time but nothing suitable came up. We heard about Carriages closure and decided to investigate, despite the fact that coronavirus had already dealt a devastating blow to the hospitality sector.

“The Grade II listed building in a prime location in Knaresborough presented the perfect opportunity to us and with the backing of private investors, we are renovating and updating while still retaining the charm and character of the building that has appealed to visitors for many years.”

Since launching in 2014, Sam and his team have established Bears Pantry as the alternative event and party specialists, serving up heart-warming, family-style food, creating menus that often make the food more memorable than the event.

Operating from purpose-built kitchen premises at Sunnybank Mills in Farsley, the business has delivered large scale events for clients including Gucci, The Body Shop, Coach and Grey Goose Vodka. In 2018, it launched sister company, mobile beer and cocktails service – Craftbar, providing speciality beers and cocktails for events, weddings and parties with John Dixon at the helm.

John, who founded and directed the growth of one of the UK’s largest advertising media companies, said: “As a resident of Knaresborough for over 20 years, I know Carriages reputation and have seen the potential it has, as a destination venue and we are aiming to return it to its former popularity.

“This is the perfect venue for us and knowing the area well we believe our unique offering and approach will not only suit the area but will give it a much-needed boost in the wake of coronavirus. I’m delighted we’re also in a position to operate this very much as an independent, family-run business, bringing into play all of our strengths and talents, delivering an experience to rival anything that neighbouring cities and towns can offer.”

An opening date for “The Bear at Carriages” is to be confirmed with late July looking likely.

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