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Nordic-influenced cafe bar given licensing thumbs-up

Erik Burgess and Stuart Fox outside their new cafe and shop The Dowry, which is set to open in the coming weeks. Photo: Shetland News

A NEW café and shop with strong Scandinavian influences is set to open in the centre of Lerwick this spring after successfully gaining a drinks licence. 

The Dowry, in the premises that used to house Scottish Hydroelectric’s shop on Commercial Street, is the brainchild of the businessmen who previously ran successful craft beer shop Beervana.

Taking its name from the dowry payment by which Shetland and Orkney were pawned to Scotland by the King of Denmark, Norway and Sweden in the sixteenth century, the new eatery and bar is expected to open its doors within the next couple of months.

It was granted a provisional on and off sales licence from 11am to 11pm by the Shetland Area Licensing Board on Tuesday morning. There were no objections to the application, and board chairman Ian Scott wished The Dowry team “good luck in your new enterprise”.

Speaking afterwards, Stuart Fox – who runs his Shetland Property Lets enterprise from the basement of the same building – said The Dowry had a “Scandinavian design that links into the name, which ties into what is probably the defining moment of Shetland’s history”, with the design incorporating features including Danish oak furniture and a cosy fireplace and sofas.

In order to ensure the outlet and its staff “walk before we can run”, it will begin by offering normal café opening hours before expanding to offer weekend brunches and light and main evening meals as the summer goes on.

“The food will be typical café food, but with an element of things with a Scandinavian feel,” he said, with charcuterie boards, cheeses, pates, olives, salads and sharing platters among what is expected to be a distinctive offering in comparison to the food and drink offered by existing cafes and bars in the town.

There will be a retail area for beer, wine, spirits and food, but off-sales will not comprise such a major part of the business as it did with Beervana: “The focus of the business is as an eatery – there’ll not be as much beer as we had in the old shop,” Fox added.

He envisages that The Dowry will initially employ six members of staff. Taking charge of the kitchen will be Helen Fullerton, who has run a popular catering business, Hel’s Kitchen, for a number of years. The premises manager will be Erik Burgess, who was also involved in Beervana.

Fox said there were also plans to stage tasting events to pair food and alcohol, with the license application setting out a café with a capacity of 62.