Former Vaux Breweries boss will be 'delighted' if new Sunderland brewery succeeds

The former boss of Vaux Breweries has said he would be "delighted" if the new Vaux business succeeds.

Tuesday, 12th February 2019, 17:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 14th February 2019, 10:02 am
An emotional Frank Nicholson on July 2, 1999, when production ended at Vaux.

Frank Nicholson, who fought against the original business's closure while managing director of the company's brewing arm, has met with Steven Smith to discuss Mr Smith's new Vaux Brewery venture.

Mr Nicholson said: "He came across as an intelligent man and I admire his courage.

An emotional Frank Nicholson on July 2, 1999, when production ended at Vaux.

"If the Vaux name returns to the city successfully then I would be delighted to see it flourish.

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"It is very difficult for me to judge if it will succeed because the market place has changed so much since I was in the industry and we were operating on a different scale to what they are planning.

"Back in 1999 there were 150 or so micro breweries in this country. Now there are 2,200 and I do not know how many of them are profitable.

"The problem many of them face is that they do well very early on when they are new and they have a new product to sell.

"But the problem is having an outlet in which to continue selling that product and what tends to happen is that their beer will soon be replaced by the next new thing. And so it goes on."

Mr Nicholson cited The Working Hand Brewery, attached to the Three Horse Shoes bar and restaurant, in Leamside, near West Rainton, as an example of how micro breweries can succeed.

He added: "The micro brewery is next to the pub so they can sell the beer right there on the doorstep."

Mr Nicholson was memorably pictured bidding farewell to Vaux staff back in 1999 after the firm's board followed guidance from London financiers in closing the site and its Ward's sister brewery in Sheffield.

Reflecting on the decision, he said: "The board had fallen out with each other and we ended up committing corporate suicide. It was the board which made the final decision, not the City."

Mr Nicholson became a business advisor after Vaux's demise and is also a non-executive director with the Port of Sunderland and Sunderland social housing provider Gentoo.

He still keeps in touch with former staff and will attend a reunion evening to mark on Friday, July 5, at the Chesters pub, in Chester Road, to mark the closure's 20th anniversary.

Mr Nicholson, now 65, added: "There was a very close bond between everyone at Vaux from top to bottom."