An Ayrshire pub owner admits he was just hours from losing everything – but now he’s getting set to pick up an award at a glitzy show in London.
John Cairns, who owns the Weston Tavern in Kilmaurs, says if he didn’t receive a vital loan he would've been forced to close the pub which would have had dire consequences for the village.
Like every establishment he was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic – but he’s now managed to claw it back after a lot of hard work, and now the Weston has scooped the National Pub & Bar Awards best in East Ayrshire award.
It adds to the Ayrshire Restaurant of the Year gong the bagged in the Scotland Prestige Awards in May.
And John, who has owned the pub for four years, admits he was close to tears when he found out the incredible news.
He told the Kilmarnock Standard: “Just before the pandemic hit we were winning a lot of awards, we were getting a good reputation.
“So when the lockdown hit the concern was firstly are we going to get through it, and secondly are we going to be able to keep up the same standards as we had before?
“When I found out we had won this, I burst out crying.
“I think it was just the built-up pressure of the last year and a half, all of that added together just made it feel great.
“It makes it sweeter that we’ve came through this and we are still up there winning awards.
“It makes you realise the hard work is worth it, I’ve been doing deliveries myself at times and delivering groceries too, but it has all paid off.”
He added: “It has been very stressful being a pub owner through this, I won’t lie it has been very hard.
“There was points where we were at proper lows, I was seven hours away from losing everything at one point, that’s how frank it got.
“We were waiting on a loan coming in, and if it didn’t come that day then I wouldn’t have been able to pay the bills and we’d have had to fold.
“So from being hours away from losing everything to getting back on top and winning awards again is just incredible.”
John, who was born and bred in Kilmaurs, has revealed it has always been his dream to own the Weston and get it back to how he remembers.
He said: “I am here all the time, I grew up in Kilmaurs, it’s my village.
“I used to joke with my dad when I was young saying ‘I will own this pub one day’ and he used to laugh at me.
“He told me to stick in at school or I’ll achieve nothing, but I proved him wrong.
The Ayrshire Live app is available to download now.
Get all the local news in your area – plus features, football news and the latest on the coronavirus crisis – at your fingertips 24/7.
The free download features the latest breaking news and exclusive stories while you can customise your page with the sections that matter to you.
The Ayrshire Live app is available to download now on iOS and Android.
“I left school at 15, went to culinary school and didn’t listen to him, but I’ve achieved what I wanted anyway.
“I have got plans to grow the Weston, we want it to be like a hotel as well, and also potentially a wedding venue.”
He added: “The customers have always stuck by us too, I think it’s because of how much we do in the community.
“We have raised money for defibrillators, we raised funds for Christmas tree lights, we do a lot and that’s why people stick by us.
“When I took over I wanted to Weston to be the heart of Kilmaurs.
“When I used to go in as a kid it was a family pub, and when I took it on I wanted it to be like that again.
“Families are welcome, dogs are welcome in the bar area and outside, it’s how it should be.
“But that’s the way the industry is going now, food-led places are thriving and your classic watering holes just aren’t surviving the same, especially not during pandemics.”
Don't miss the latest Ayrshire headlines – sign up to our free daily newsletter here