A new era is dawning for some of Glasgow’s landmark pubs and bars
after they were bought by two entrepreneurs.

Businessmen Oli Norman and partner Stephen White have just bought Maggie Mays on Trongate, for “north of £2 million”, from Colin Beattie, the publican behind Oran Mor in Byres Road.

It comes hard on the heels of buying famous Glasgow pub The Griffin. 

The historic pub, across from the King’s Theatre, now joins a group which also includes Brel on Ashton Lane and Sloans in the Argyll Arcade.

The new company, Great Glasgow Institutions and Taverns, bring the venues under one roof.

Mr Norman said: “All four of them, while they are very different in personality, all share in common they are Glasgow institutions.

“They are part of the real fabric of the city, so we wanted to create a group and formalise that whole structure.”

The company employs more than 200 staff and is expected to turn over £8m in its first year.

And 12 further jobs are expected to be created by the process of setting up a head office structure for the group.

GGIT has already been recruiting for roles, ranging from a new events and bookings team to maintenance and book-keeping jobs.

Nicola Wilkinson, who is currently general manager of Sloans, has been appointed operations director for the group.

On Maggie Mays, which Mark Lappin of One Leisure Group had operated on behalf of Mr Beattie, Mr Norman said: “It’s an up-and-coming institution. It’s been on the scene for over a decade, and is just a really well-established, great fun venue. We’re at the early stages of looking in the new year to do a full refurbishment plan of the space, which is quite exciting. 

“It is a very busy, great fun place that’s got this great dynamic of live sport, live, music and a late licence. It means you have got this really fun environment.”

In common with the other units they have acquired, Mr Norman said Maggie Mays “just needs a bit of love – I think that’s fair to say of The Griffin [and] any of the units we have taken over.”

Mr Norman added: “Sloans, Griffin and Brel are all either Grade A or B listed, and I’m proud of the fact we have restored them all, and added to them.

They have all been in some way restoration projects – we’ve had to do major structural works as well as restore integral features of the spaces.

“Maggie’s is clearly different, because it was built in the modern era in the last couple of decades, but it’s got this great heritage of music and [is] a great live venue. 

“We’re looking to really build on that. 

“The last thing the city needs is another generic place. What I love about each of our places is they all have a really strong, bold personality.”

Mr Norman said Glasgow operators such as Colin Clydesdale and Carol Wright, owners of the Ubiquitous Chip, Di Maggio’s and Kained (Holdings), the company behind Lebowskis and Porter & Rye in Finnieston, are hospitality businesses in the city he admires. 

As for the inspiration behind the company name, Mr Norman, known for his sense of humour, said it stemmed from their desire to have some fun, while having “substance behind it”.

“Ultimately we want people to be good GGITs – not bad GGITs,” he laughed.

“All the names I have chosen for my businesses – DADA, itison – are reflective of a fun environment. 

“We are in hospitality and we should never lose sight of that.”