The new venue injecting energy into Knaresborough’s night life
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Last updated Jan 12, 2024

Everyone loves Knaresborough. Independent shops, characterful pubs and historic views. But a night out? You have to go elsewhere for that.

That’s the traditional view — but things are changing. Several new venues have appeared lately, but none has had more impact than 1858 Bar and Restaurant. With its size, central location and live DJs it’s injecting some energy into Knaresborough night life.

Owners Jaime Wilkinson and Kim Lancaster, who are both from Knaresborough, opened 1858 almost six months ago in the former NatWest bank, which closed in 2017.

Being situated in a listed building, which it is believed was built in 1858, has brought its planning challenges but it’s difficult not to feel impressed when you walk in. It’s spacious, elegant and serves food throughout the day, seven days a week. Many of the old features have been retained, including the old heavy doored-bank vault, which has been turned into a dining area, with an imaginative penny design floor.

But it’s also transforming the town’s nighttime offering for younger people, especially the live DJ sets at weekends.

Kim Lancaster and Jaime Wilkinson

Mr Wilkinson says:

“The live DJ nights have been massively successful because again people don’t have to go to Harrogate. They also attract people from outlying villages.

“It’s giving people the option. If they want to come out and have a bit of a buzz they can stay in Knaresborough.”

Mr Wilkinson set out to create something different. He says:

“We saw there was a market for something like this. To have the opportunity to do something more ambitious was exciting.”

The old bank vault is now a dining area.

 

Mr Wilkinson and Ms Lancaster are well known in Knaresborough, having grown up in the area. She was area manager for Drake’s after previously working at the town’s So! Bar and Eats. His career has followed an unusual trajectory. He started off as a tree surgeon but his mum worked in a fish and chip shop and he got a job frying. For a while he combined the two jobs but then he got the chance to take on the Ripon franchise of Drake’s, and over time that expanded.

He now owns the franchise for seven Drake’s fish and chip shops, including the ones in the centres of Knaresborough and Ripon and the one on Knaresborough Road in Harrogate. Chances are you’ve sampled his fish and chips. He continues to operate these franchises and says he “still jumps on the pans” from time to time.


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Mr Wilkinson says although chip shops and bars are different, handling staff remains the main issue and “if you can work alongside people you can adapt”.

When it came to developing the bar, balancing their aspirations with the cost of living crisis and the impact of high inflation has been tricky.

Mr Wilkinson says:

“We knew we wanted to do nice food and a bar. To what level was the question. Do you go too high end? No.

“From the outside it’s one of the best looking buildings in town and we wanted to take that forward and make it one of the best looking ones on the inside as well.”

The bar

The restaurant

The restaurant can seat 40 people and the capacity can be extended into the bar. Main courses are generally in the £15 to £20 bracket. Ms Lancaster says:

“There’s a misconception that we are expensive. On a scale of 1 to 10 I’d say we were a seven-and-a-half.”

At a time when people go out less but spend more when they do, the venue is well suited for a leisurely stay.

It opens from 9.30am to 10pm weekdays and is licensed to stay open until midnight at weekends and 2am on bank holidays. Food is served from 9.30am to 8pm daily. Mr Wilkinson says:

“My ethos is if someone wants to eat here they know they can. They don’t have to worry about whether we are open or doing food.”

The owners talk about introducing “less energetic” acoustic sessions on Sundays and midweek to bring a different vibe. But the early signs are promising. Mr Wilkinson says:

“If you had said to me that in the first three months we would be doing the figures we are doing and getting the footfall we’re getting and the response we have had I would have said ‘thank you very much’.”


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