Ian Ridley from The Highlands is semi-finalist in licensee contest

Ian Ridley, from The Highlands Inn, Uckfield, is one of 16 semi-finalists in the Licensee of the Year 2017 competition.

The event, organised by the British Institute of Innkeeping, is said, in a press release, to be the most rigorous and hard-fought award for individual licensee operators in the UK.


Ian Ridley.

The semi-finalists have made it through the early stage of a comprehensive entry process, competing against more than 200 other entrants.

They come from across the UK from many different types of pubs. Judges will now visit and assess these pubs in person and conduct one-to-one interviews.

Ian Ridley is up against the following licensees:

  • Paul Wiscombe – The Anchor Inn, Bridport
  • Nicola Storey – The Mustard Pot, Leeds
  • Martin Barnes – Geroge and Dragon, Cheshire
  • Mark and Clare Higgs – Castle at Edgehill, Edgehill
  • Clive Price – Bletchingly Arms, Redhill
  • Chantelle Tupman-John – Waggon Inn, Oldham
  • Tim Tomlinson – Merchants 1688, Lancashire
  • Jennifer Kuhn – The Windsor Fenchurch, London
Mark Anderson – Ruddington Arms, Ruddington
  • Mark Thornhill – The Kings Head, Hursley
  • Tania Irwin – The Princess Royal, Farnham
  • Roland and Kay Keech – The Castle, Bedford
  • Gavin and Carole Austin – George and Dragon, Arundel
  • Hendrik and Dutson – The White Horse, Banbury

Ashley McCarthy, chair of the judging panel and himself a former winner of Licensee of the Year said the standard of entries was higher than it had ever been in all the years he had been involved.

He added: “It has been very difficult to get down to even this list of 16. I’m very much looking forward to seeing these pubs in person and getting to know the semi-finalists.”

British Institute of Innkeeping chief executive Mike Clist agreed with Ashley. He added: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who entered the competition this year, and wish the semi-finalists good luck for the final.”

David Rey, managing director of Sky Business, said: “We sponsor the Licensee of the Year Award because we recognise the importance of rewarding outstanding licensees for the tireless work they do to support the on-trade. Congratulations to all those that have been nominated as semi-finalists.”

After their pub ‘road trip’ the judges will select six entrants to go through to the final Panel Judging Day on June 12, where they will be put through their paces by industry experts in three areas, marketing and business development, financial awareness, and people development.

All six finalists will be presented with a trophy at the British Institute of Innkeeping summer event on June 13, where the winner of Licensee of the Year 2017 will be crowned.

As was the case last year, people working in the licensed trade were encouraged to not only register themselves but also nominate others.  This resulted in customers, colleagues, pub companies, breweries and fellow operators all nominating their favourite ‘local’.

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