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Meeting called as Hilltop future looks bleak

Mid Yell's Hilltop bar could become a shop only.
An archive image of the Hilltop Bar in Yell.

YELL’s Hilltop Bar is set to close by the end of August if no one within the local community or beyond comes forward with a viable solution for the ailing pub.

A public meeting will be held at the Mid Yell Hall at 7.30pm on Wednesday as owners Steven and Sharn Swan gather thoughts on the future of the bar, with a community takeover or private sale or lease some of the options mooted.

The Swans reopened the Hilltop Bar in 2014, when they also bought the island’s Gutcher Goose Cafe.

Earlier this year they opened a shop within the restaurant, not long after the Linkshouse Stores shut without any notice, a move that temporarily left Mid Yell without a shop.

But Steven Swan said the time has come to seriously consider the bar’s future as it isn’t bringing in enough money, despite the shop doing well on its own.

He warned that they would have no option but to shut the bar’s doors soon if no solution can be found.

The only other bar in Mid Yell is in the nearby boating club, but Swan said even when that isn’t open the Hilltop doesn’t see an upturn in trade.

“The bar is closing, end of story. Unless the community or someone else comes up with something,” Swan said.

“We will not re-open it for ourselves, but if a private individual or anybody comes up with a plan, we’re willing to listen to pretty much anything to help to keep the bar open.

“Under our own ownership, it definitely won’t stay open. It doesn’t matter if HIE come along or the council come along and gave us a big pile of money to do it, we wouldn’t do it.”

The Swans live in Unst and he said this means they can’t dedicate themselves to running the pub around the clock due to the ferry timetable.

Attempts to find staff to run the bar, however, have so far failed.

“We really don’t want to close it, but we’ve put money after money after money into the place since 2013, and we can’t just keep making money to lose it in another place. We’ve got no option,” Swan said.

“The thing is, it’s actually a decent enough business. But the problem is it needs the people who own it to be here everyday running it. We can’t do that because we’re living on another island, and we can’t catch ferries to get back home after the pub closes.

“Our biggest worry is that if we carried on with the pub as it is, it’s going to drag the shop down. The decision is whether to keep slogging at it, or whether to cut it and go with what is profitable, and at least retain some of the business.”

The news comes just weeks after the public bar in Unst’s Baltasound Hotel – which was owned by the Swans until 2015 – shut its doors, although the Saxa Vord resort stepping in to offer bar facilities in its crew room seven days a week.

In addition, the Swans are also in the process of selling on the Gutcher Goose cafe and shop, with three different parties interested in taking it over.

He said one wants to keep it as it is, one wants to turn it into hostel-style accommodation and the other wants to run it purely as a cafe.