Bears hunt down historic venue for latest venture

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

Sam Pullan, founder and head chef of 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 teamed up to take over and launch ‘The Bear at Carriages’.

Their venture is 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 Pullan taking the lead in the kitchen, and Dixon as managing and operations director.

Pullan’s partner Nicole Deighton and Dixon’s wife, Victoria, will both be actively involved in day-to-day operations.

A number of local jobs will be created, ranging from bar and waiting staff to a full team working with Pullan in the kitchen.

Rich Kendrick, a member of the ‘Bears family’ for over five years, is relocating to Knaresborough and will be general manager.

He has over 20 years’ experience running bars and restaurants in Yorkshire and has worked with Pullan running industrial design bistro Bears Den in Bradford for the past two years.

Carriages was popular for a number of years under owner Chris Richardson.

More recently under the stewardship of the Straker family, owners of William & Victoria’s wine bar in Harrogate, the venue suffered from difficult trading conditions and was forced into administration.

The name Carriages comes from its location in a listed building above a Victorian railway tunnel on the Harrogate to York line.

Its new owners plan to retain the character of the building while introducing their own contemporary twist.

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 presented the perfect opportunity to us and with the backing of private investors, we are renovating and updating while still retaining the character of the building.”

Since launching in 2014, Pullan and his team have established Bears Pantry as the alternative event and party specialists, operating from purpose-built premises at Sunnybank Mills in Farsley.

In 2018, the business launched sister company, mobile beer and cocktails service Craftbar, with Dixon at the helm.

Dixon added: “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.”

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