By Will Dixon
James Watt, CEO of BrewDog, has blamed Durham County Council (DCC) for delays to the craft beer pub chain’s Durham opening. In a LinkedIn post, the CEO described what he saw as the “epic ineptitude and complete paralysis of the council”.
He said that Durham’s BrewDog was ready to open in 2022, and claimed the Council then told them it would not be possible until January 2023. At the start of 2023, the opening was again delayed.
A spokesperson for DCC has said that “the Milburngate site is owned by a private company and is not in control of the council”; hence the Council is “not responsible for the delivery of this development” and it “is not within the council’s remit to say [when it will open].”
The project’s developer Arlington Richardson said: “We have every sympathy with BrewDog.”
“Durham Council is to be the landlord for the occupiers and had challenged some of the original design, these matters are resolved and are awaiting formal agreement.”
The company originally contracted to build the site, Tolent, went bankrupt in February 2023. A spokesperson for Arlington Richardson told Palatinate they started a “technical review” immediately following the bankruptcy, in which they found the “incorrect thickness” of fire-proofing paint had been applied to some parts of the development, which will only be fixed once the Council “has reached an agreement”.
The Brewdog CEO said: “Our economy is missing out on hundreds of jobs, the government are missing out on valuable tax revenue and the good people of Durham are missing out on brilliant entertainment options.”
A Premier Inn hotel and several restaurants are also currently unable to open, despite some already being fitted out. While Watt attributed all delays to a “staggering display of incompetence from the Council,” DCC told the BBC that it was “disappointed with the progress at this site” and they were “aware of the concerns” raised.
A spokesperson said: “The council has worked tirelessly to try and support the success of this scheme, and further information will be provided when it is available.”
In his post, Watt claimed that the Council is “set to become [BrewDog’s] landlord, but they won’t even let us know when that is happening”. When Palatinate contacted the Council to clarify their relationship with the development, and to check when they would be taking over as landlord, they declined to comment.
The delays don’t just affect BrewDog. Palatinate reached out to other tenants stuck with fully complete venues and no fixed date to open. Premier Inn said that they are also in limbo and are waiting for an update from the Council regarding their next steps. The Council meets with representatives from firms monthly to give updates.
Construction on the project started after planning permission was given in 2019. The development features a mix of infrastructure, including 153 apartments, a 92-bed hotel and 5,000 square metres of offices, which the developers say will create 1000 new jobs. Brands such as Premier Inn, BrewDog, Bar + Block, The Botanist and Everyman Cinemas also have leases.
Image: Emily Doughty