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Wylam Brewery Ltd restores the Former Palace of Arts

The £1.8 million restoration of the iconic Former Palace of Arts in Newcastle’s Exhibition Park, and subsequent relocation of Wylam Brewery Limited to the site has been one of the city’s most interesting recent developments.

The Former Palace of Arts is the last remaining building from the 1929 North East Coast Exhibition which was a project to celebrate and encourage craft, art and industry at the start of the Great Depression. Having remained almost derelict for nearly a decade the building is now a fully operational 30-tap brewery as well as a bar, kitchen and Grand Hall which plays host to live music, weddings and events.

After reaching full capacity at its former home at Heddon-on-the-Wall, Wylam Brewery directors Rob Cameron, Dave Stone and Matt Boyle had been searching for the right opportunity to realise their ambitious growth plans for years. Rob said:

“Although we had plans to expand we were keen to wait until the right opportunity presented itself. When we heard the site was potentially available we knew we couldn’t let the opportunity to make it the new home of Wylam Brewery go past. We were literally going to bring brewing back to Newcastle city centre which was a very exciting prospect.

“By the very nature of the project and the public interest in the site’s end use it was always going to be a complex and demanding project for everyone involved; so although it was the right decision for us, it wasn’t a straightforward process. Far from it”

Having contributed significantly to Newcastle’s social scene over the past ten years, Rob and Dave were owners of Tokyo Group Limited, a nationwide group of bars and night clubs that was headquartered in Newcastle. More recently, in addition to operating Tokyo Newcastle, they have been responsible for bringing the city well known venues The Town Wall and The Bridge Tavern.

Behind the scenes of these popular venues has been a close working relationship spanning a decade between Rob and Dave and Mark Lazenby, corporate partner and head of finance at Square One Law. Mark first acted for Rob in relation to the acquisition of the Tokyo Group of companies. Following the acquisition, he was retained to act on behalf of the group and has been supported by Square One Law’s corporate and commercial, property, banking and employment teams over recent years. This has included advising on premises acquisitions and joint venture arrangements, which included the involvement of Rob and Dave in Wylam Brewery Limited.

Mark commented:

“It’s always a pleasure to work with Rob, Dave and their extended team as the manner in which they are developing their business is entrepreneurial, professional and fun.

“We were instructed to manage the process of the brewery’s relocation and this latest venture has proved to be one of the most challenging of their projects to date, especially given the sensitivities of the site’s proposed change of use. Although the project had its challenges, working closely with our property team we ensured Wylam Brewery’s vision was met and its target opening date was achieved.”

Helen Warren, senior associate in Square One Law’s property team said:

“The great thing about working with Rob is his cool head, sense of perspective and determination to deliver his project. I led the negotiation process for the leases and licences required for the site upon which the Former Palace of Arts is located, as well as an adjacent site where the brewery tanks and car park are now located. By undertaking careful project management throughout, which included a negotiation process with three parties, our team was able to drive the legal documentation forwards in conjunction with the planning process to achieve Rob and Dave’s objectives.
Rob added:

“I try to work with people who really understand our brand and business model and that is the case with Mark, Helen and the team at Square One Law. I have always brought Mark into the early discussions of our possible business ventures so that he understands the longer terms aims and ambitions of our company, as well as our immediate goals. This has resulted in the way we work together being seamless, relaxed and really enjoyable.”

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