Prize-winning pub offers knitting and dog nights

Anna Christopherson, centre, with bar manager Ryan Bharaj and assistant manager El Thain. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Anna Christopherson, centre, with bar manager Ryan Bharaj and assistant manager El Thain. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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IT used to be the case pub entertainment was limited to dodgy karaoke, dominoes and – depending on the clientele – a boozy punch-up.

But with pubs needing to do more to stay afloat that’s all changed and one bar in particular – Sofi’s in Leith – is leading the way when it comes to eschewing pickled eggs and warm ale in favour of proper, wholesome community entertainment.

The Henderson Street watering hole offers knitting sessions, an alcohol-free running club and a special dog owners’ evening – among countless other attractions.

As such it has now been heartily toasted for its novel approach with a national award recognising it for its community spirit.

Swedish owners Anna Christopherson, 39, and husband Mike, 45, set up the bar ten years ago after falling in love with the Capital and have since opened four others including Boda Bar and Victoria in Leith Walk, Joseph Pearce’s in Elm Row, and Hemma in Holyrood Road.

Mrs Christopherson said they knew they wanted to open a business after moving to Leith – but were unsure which direction to take.

Sweden doesn’t have a pub culture so – after experiencing Edinburgh’s – they immediately knew that’s what they wanted to do. But their boozer has a very Nordic twist.

“A lot of people from Sweden don’t have pubs so people are so lonely – they sit at home watching TV instead – they don’t have anywhere to go,” she said. “When we moved here we wanted people to be able to come into a bar and feel welcome even if you have never been in before.”

People clearly feel comfortable at the bar. With fresh activities announced via the pub’s Facebook page, business is thriving.

“Sofi’s is a place for people to gather and it’s that openness that I think is fantastic,” Mrs Christopherson added. “It’s really nice to be recognised and show that it’s not all bad in the licensing trade – it’s not all about people getting drunk and creating problems, it’s a place for the community to come together.”

Sofi’s won the Heart of the Community Award in the national Best Bar None Awards which single out and recognise Scotland’s most loved drinking spots.

Driftwood, in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, won Best Bar overall. The awards are run by the Scottish Business Resilience Centre. David Duthie, of the organisation, said: “There was an exceptionally high standard of applications for this year’s awards.

“Sofi’s stood out as a venue which has the community as their focus. The judging panel was immensely impressed with the initiatives that Sofi’s is involved in, such as promoting mental and physical health and children’s activities.”

Come along for Easter eggstravaganza

Sofi’s doesn’t just offer pints. It is a community hub for activities including poetry nights, mums groups and clothes swaps.

Some of the stand-out events though are the knitting society and Dugs in Pubs group which, as its name suggests, bring along their pooches for a night out.

They also offer the venue to be used for charity nights including an open mic night and for LGBT groups too.

Their latest event will be the Sunday Easter eggstravaganza and lonely rabbit fundraiser on April 20 which will have everything from an egg hunt to egg and spoon races and a fancy dress competition.

For more information search for Sofi’s Bar on Facebook.