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Alan Nichols MBII 

In the vibrant city of edinburgh, you’ll find a hidden gem that’s more than a typical pub. It’s a community hub where inclusivity, diversity, and a welcoming atmosphere are at the forefront. BII’s Ben Mueller MBII spoke to Alan Nichols MBII to find out more about his pub, The Regent.

Alan Nichols MBII’s journey into the world of hospitality and owning The Regent is a testament to his commitment to creating spaces that foster community and acceptance. With a passion for astronomy, which brought him to study in Edinburgh as an undergraduate, his first starring role was with a small café in Edinburgh’s LGBTQ+ center, where he sought to provide a welcoming environment for the local community. The café soon became a hub for people to connect, find support and simply enjoy belonging.

Alongside running the café, Alan was also a successful DJ for 13 years, and while the energy and excitement of the nightlife scene held its allure, as time went on, he found himself realising it was time for a change. “I was approaching 40, and I thought, you know what, I’m getting a bit too old for doing this DJ thing.” Passing The Regent every night on his way to DJ at a club, he saw the place fall into a state of disrepair and finally be closed down. Alan recalls: “It was in a real state. I mean, it had been closed for over a year and there was still a half jar of pickled eggs sitting on the bar.” It was like whoever had locked up that last night had just disappeared, he says. Determined to transform this neglected pub into something special, Alan dedicated about four months to renovating the place – and it was his hard work and passion that breathed new life into The Regent, transforming it into more than just a pub, but a haven for the LGBTQ+ community. He explains: “It couldn’t have been anything else if I was running it.”

Located in the heart of Edinburgh, it is a welcoming and relaxed environment, with an interior designed to exude warmth and charm. The atmosphere isn’t only down to the décor, but also the amazing staff who pride themselves on being friendly and always ready for a chat with customers. The Regent embraces all of those who walk through its doors. Alan explains: “I never wanted The Regent to be like an archetypal gay bar, with lots of UV lights and loud music. My whole plan centred around providing something that wasn’t on offer anywhere else at the time.” A special place for people to gather for a relaxed pint, engage in friendly conversation and enjoy a sense of camaraderie, without conforming to stereotypes often associated with gay bars. The Regent’s warm welcome extends beyond the LGBTQ+ community, attracting a diverse clientele that pays tribute to Alan’s determination to be truly inclusive. Over time, the pub has also evolved to become a safe haven for the transgender community – a safe space where they can socialise and enjoy the company of friends, without the fear of discrimination or prejudice.

The team actively engages with various LGBTQ+ charities in Edinburgh, and their collaboration with organisations like Waverley Care, a charity focused on HIV and AIDS, demonstrates their commitment to giving back to the community. The pub hosts fundraisers, including an annual event on World AIDS Day, where they partner with their brewer and other pubs. They each contribute a cask of ale, with the proceeds of the sales going to charity, a reflection of the pub’s mission to not only create a sense of community, but to also support worthy causes.

The Regent goes a step further in its commitment to the community by supporting local artists, providing them with a platform to showcase their work for a month at a time, without taking commission on any sales. Alan’s motivation for this approach is simple: “I just like the fact that our scenery changes once per month.” This practice not only adds to the pub’s vibrant and ever-evolving character, attracting customers back on a regular basis, but also encourages local artists to flourish.

Alan’s attitude and commitment earned him the title of Punch Publican of the Year in 2022, in recognition for all of the great work he does for pubs and his local community. In a conversation about his best advice for fellow licensees, Alan highlights the importance of taking care of your team. “The best tip is to look after your team. Make sure they’re happy, because they’re representing the business and they’re representing me. I want them to be happy and having a good time because if they’re having a good time, that will rub off on the customers.” 

With a focus on inclusivity, The Regent has transformed a neglected space into a thriving and essential community hub that welcomes people from all walks of life. Alan’s leadership and commitment to supporting local artists, engagement with charities, and his emphasis on caring for his team all contribute to the success of The Regent, making it a shining example of how a pub can be so much more than just a place to grab a drink. It can be a thriving community hub that benefits staff and customers alike.


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