Isaacs celebrates 10 years on the Waterfront in Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 17:00 27 October 2016 | UPDATED: 17:06 27 October 2016
When businessman Aidan Coughlan bought the historic Isaac Lord buildings, some of which date back to medieval times, there were people who thought he was mad.
His dream was to restore and convert the buildings into new uses - bars and restaurants, to make a destination at the Waterfront.
Ten years on he has seen his dreams realised.
Several phases of conversion and redevelopment have seen Isaacs become a year round destination, with spaces for weddings and birthday parties, bars and restaurants areas - open seven days a week.
David Vincent met up with Aidan and the team last week - almost exactly ten years since he announced his plans.
He said: “We have accomplished a lot. When I look back at the original newspaper article, about the only thing we haven’t done is build and include a fountain. There were potential health and safety and hygiene problems.
“it has taken a long time to get here.
“If it all went wrong, I would have been left with a big house by the Waterfront.
“After a slow start, the borough council have been very, very supportive.
“I think they were nervous that one individual wanted to create these things.
“Once we were doing it they were confident we would carry on with it.”
Previoulsy just one of the old buildings had been a bar, people may remember The Vodka Bar.
Gradually more buildings have been converted into bar and restaurant space, with a coutyard for open air events and music, and most recently an extension produced a pizza restaurant and a first floor decked balcony.
Another of Aidan’s plans, to have a brewery, was realised with the opening of Briarbank Brewery, to the rear, which produces around ten varieties at a time - mainly for their own bars.
“We haven’t any ambitions to become a volume brewer,” explained Aidan. “The beer range is sold at the Briarbank, at the Gardener’s Arms and in the Isaacs bars.”
Operations manager Mandy Stafford added: “We have also been very lucky, we have had some very good staff. Many have been with us since the beginning.
“It has been a very busy year.”
Aidan’s son Nathanial is general manager in the family business.
He said: “It has been a very busy year. The Waterfront is still developing, the Salthouse Harbour Hotel is having work done at the moment.
“This has been a great year at Isaacs and we are planning to have a special celebration on New Year’s Eve.
“Isaacs will keep evolving. We need to continue to innovate, because there is so much competition now.
“The town centre is fighting back against the Waterfront.
“That is good news for Ipswich, because it will bring more people to the town.”