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How Aberdeen bar CASC survived Covid restrictions with new bottle shop, beer garden and online expansion

Paul West.

Father and son Bill and Paul West of Aberdeen’s CASC are among the business owners that have been forced to adapt during the pandemic.

But despite the uphill battle faced by the hospitality industry, the resilience of the well-known local brand has proved inspiring.

CASC – an acronym for cigars, ale, Scotch and coffee – was launched in December 2013, which saw a new bar join the city’s food and drink scene on Stirling Street.

Within the space of a decade, followers of CASC have been treated to a new bottle shop, on King Street, the installation of a new beer garden at the bar and a website expansion.

Outside CASC Bar, on Stirling Street.

Paul, 36, said all of these were implemented “in order to diversify.”

CASC Bar

The concept of CASC stemmed from Bill and Paul having little to no interest in visiting other bars in the city, explaining “it was the same old lager everywhere, very little whisky to choose from and certainly no cigars on offer.”

Paul, formerly a taxi driver, had no hospitality background before opening the venue.

He said: “We launched so dad and I would have somewhere to go. Up to that point the bars in the city didn’t really interest us.

“We effectively just wanted to build our dream bar and if others wanted to come and enjoy it then even better.

The bar area.

“Due to the overwhelming amount of like-minded people coming in, it soon became our business. CASC is a business born out of passion.”

The brand offers beers from all over the world, with its bar boasting 28 beer lines – 16 lines for its guest selection and 12 lines reserved for permanent beers made up mostly by local breweries.

These include Six Degrees North, Brew Toon, Cromarty, Fierce and many more.

The tap list changes almost daily.

The bar, a Gold Standard Havana Cigar Specialist, also has one of the largest selections of non-Cuban cigars in the country and serves over 500 Scotch and world whiskies, as well as high-quality coffee.

What changed from March 2020?

When the pandemic struck, Bill and Paul immediately started thinking up ways to continue serving customers both online and face-to-face (when restrictions allowed).

They built an extension at the entrance of the bar, known as the Sidecar, as well as CASC Shop which opened in December 2020.

The capacity at CASC Bar pre-coronavirus was 129 but decreased to 55 at the height of the pandemic. This included their outside space which could seat a further 18 people.

There is currently a team of 14 working at the bar.

“We knew it would be a challenge to open the shop during the pandemic as it was done during the same week as our bar reopened,” Paul said.

“It was a lot of work but thankfully word of mouth spread very quickly and all our loyal CASCers were quick to support us.”

CASC Shop offers the same products as CASC Bar but in off-sale form.

‘Online sales skyrocketed’

“It has certainly been difficult,” Paul added. “The first six months of the pandemic forced us to change and adapt quite a lot.

“We expanded our online business by offering more products, including a growing list of merch.

“Aside from the grants and furlough we relied heavily on online sales, which thankfully skyrocketed. We were shipping orders out daily, not just around the UK but internationally also.

Paul West, co-founder and co-owner of CASC.

“We are seeing sparks of normality returning so hopefully a return to pre-pandemic days is not far off.”

Looking ahead, the business owners will continue to put an emphasis on the support local message.

CASC Bar is running a Tap Takeover with Six Degrees North this Saturday (January 29) to celebrate the launch of a new permanent beer line, pouring Wanderlust Wheat. 

For more information, visit CASC Bar on Facebook.


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