Owners of Edinburgh's 'best' pub, the Dreadnought in Leith, call for help with 'ludicrous' energy costs

Owner of a pub crowned the best in Edinburgh has called for delayed support to be rolled out urgently for ‘ludicrous’ energy costs after their bill more than doubled.
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Toby Saltonstall, who owns the Dreadnought on North Fort Street with his partner Roisin Therese, was horrified to get a November bill for £2,400 – up from average £700 – an increase of nearly 250 percent. The pub on North Fort Street was named as Pub of the Year for the fourth consecutive year in the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Awards 2022.

Previously the couple paid about £8,000 a year but could be facing costs of up to £30,000 which outstrips the bill for their rent. Mr Saltonstall, 43, said they reached the end of their contract in October and have been holding out for the new energy bill relief scheme, which will see businesses get a capped rate.

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But he has since received a worrying letter saying that the pub isn’t eligible for the help. And the subsidy due to be applied from October up until the end of March has been delayed, sparking anxiety as hundreds of thousands reached the end of their fixed-price energy contracts at the end of last month. Mr Saltonstall has called on the Government to ‘stop the squabbling’ and deliver for small business owners who are being put in a position that he warns is ‘completely untenable’. He said businesses can’t afford to wait for help with energy costs.

Toby and Roisin celebrate Edinburgh pub Dreadnought's 6th birthdayToby and Roisin celebrate Edinburgh pub Dreadnought's 6th birthday
Toby and Roisin celebrate Edinburgh pub Dreadnought's 6th birthday

Pub owners in Edinburgh hammered with soaring bills told the Evening News they are being forced to cut opening hours, put up the price of a pint and work for no pay as they fight to survive the winter. Several pubs have closed their doors in the capital in recent months including the Lord Nelson and Ooh Mami in Leith and Monty's at Haymarket.

Mr Saltonstall said: “We were on a contract until the end October and with no cap we’d be looking at about £30,000 a year. It’s ludicrous. That is completely untenable for smaller, independent pubs. If prices go up to the amount quoted without the support scheme that will way outstrip our rent. It’s uncertainty on top of uncertainty. Bringing in the cap will help though costs will still be double but it’s something.

"It’s better than quadruple increase. We got a letter from our supplier saying we weren’t eligible for the scheme but it could be just because we were still on a fixed contract. I’m hoping we don’t fall through some loophole. We are hanging on in limbo.”

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Toby and his partner Roisin Therese celebrated the Dreadnought sixth birthday in October and recently bought The Wee Leith Shop on Leith Walk which has been shut since the ‘90s. The couple plan to turn the quirky unit into a takeaway shop which will showcase beers from local breweries. But there’s work to be done to restore and repair the shop before they are able to open it.

He said: "The cost of energy bills will pile on the debt further, at a time when we don’t have any surplus. We can try cutting our consumption but the problem for pubs is we need fridges to be on all the time and have a cellar chiller, as well as light and heating during the winter. We will look at all energy saving measures we can. It’s a miserable situation.

"As things stand we badly need the promised support scheme. The Government needs to stop the internal squabbling and deliver on the help promised. The price cap needs to be rolled out now and backdated quickly to help small businesses get off their knees. We’ll do everything we can to keep going and hoping for the best.”

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