Interview: From city banking to running a Somerset pub

The owners of the Candlelight Inn at Bishopswood: Mike Rose and Simon MacLeod

The owners of the Candlelight Inn at Bishopswood: Mike Rose and Simon MacLeod - Credit: Archant

Two city bankers ditched their corporate careers to run a pub and found a clever way to fund it

Candlelight In, Bishopswood

Candlelight In, Bishopswood - Credit: Archant

Pinstripe suits and the boardroom were the daily norm for Mike Rose and Simon MacLeod - until they decided to upturn their city lives and buy a pub in the country.

The two ex-corporate bankers yearned for a life change and trawled the UK for the right business to invest their hearts and money into before they found The Candlelight Inn.

Mike Rose, who had been in the banking industry for over 25 years working in London, Manchester, Birmingham and New York, recalls: “We were recently married and we both reassessed our lifestyles and thought, ‘What can we do outside of the banking environment?’

“After that amount of time it just sucked all the passion out of us. I think, if you don’t wake up in the morning feeling passionate about things, then why do it?

“There were redundancy options so we both jumped at the opportunity. We always said it was the business, not the location that was important, so we looked at businesses in the Lake District, Scotland, the north and south of England. We immediately fell in love with Somerset and the South West and this pub and what it was offering. I knew it was the one as soon as I walked through the door, like when you buy a house.”

Candlelight Inn, Bishopswood

Candlelight Inn, Bishopswood - Credit: Archant

“It had excellent food, an established customer base, and we immediately saw opportunities within the business to build it, strengthen it and make it a little bit more diverse.”

The Bishopswood pub is a far cry from the lives they were leading in Lancashire - commuting into Manchester every day.

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Mike admits: “It’s a huge lifestyle change. I’m a city boy so when I first saw it, I thought it’s different! Mud, fields - all that type of thing! But you soon adjust. his has rejuvenated the passion in both of us that had stopped existing. I led successful teams and it was great fun at the time but now I feel like I’m 21 again with a new lease of life!

“I love it so much. I love it more in the evening, the place comes alive as it is lit by candlelight - hence the name - and the food speaks for itself. It’s a pleasure taking out the art that my kitchen creates.”

They spoke to contacts in the banking world to find ways to make the opportunity work financially.

Candlelight Inn, Bishopswood

Candlelight Inn, Bishopswood - Credit: Archant

Mike explains: “We bought the freehold of the property from our pension fund. So, we looked at our pension pot and dealt with a very good financial advisor who introduced us to a SIP to allow us to purchase. So we are owners and tenants of the building.

“The SIP and the pension fund enabled us to acquire a commercial business, so I think it’s a really clever use of your pension fund - understanding there’s a pot of cash there, you’re not going to have access to that cash until you draw it down as a pensioner. So, how can you make better use of that cash now to improve your lifestyle?

“So, we are paying rent back to ourselves, which is going back into our pension pot, meaning we are growing our pot all the time we are here. It’s a really clever way of making your pension pot work for you while you’re young and you still have the energy to do it.”

In their first 18 months, as well as winning a Somerset Life customer service award, they redecorated and rewired the pub and installed a new kitchen.

Future plans include developing the first floor into a guest house offering five en-suite bedrooms as well as ideas for courses to make it a real destination.

Simon, who has a passion for food, will be retraining to work with the chefs in the kitchen and both men are keen to bring in more young people to the team.

Mike says: “I have already taken on an apprentice, Grace Coles, and she is doing brilliantly. I would like to take more on to teach new skills and to give something back to the community. I think taking on apprentices is a fantastic way of doing that.

“It’s about giving somebody that chance. I wasn’t very academic at school and I worked my way up from the bottom in my banking career and I wouldn’t have got to where I got to without someone giving me that chance. So, it’s a bit like me giving something back.”

Visit the Candlelight Inn website here.

What’s a SIP?

A Systematic Investment Plan is an investment vehicle offered by mutual funds to investors, allowing them to invest small amounts periodically instead of lump sums.

A fixed amount of money is debited by the investors in bank accounts periodically and invested in a specified mutual fund. The investor is allocated a number of units according to the current net asset value. Every time a sum is invested, more units are added to the investors account.

The strategy claims to free the investors from speculating in volatile markets.