Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

news

Bristol's iconic Mud Dock bike shop and cafe celebrates 25th birthday - and gets whopping rent rise

74 per cent rent increase for pioneering venue on south-western city's Floating Harbour...

Iconic Bristol bike shop and café Mud Dock has celebrated its 25th anniversary – but at the same time as it has been hit by a whopping 74 per cent rent rise from its landlord, the city council, something the business’s co-founder says has put it in “an invidious position.”

Bike shops combined with a café are commonplace these days – but not when Mud Dock opened on the south-western city’s Floating Harbour a quarter of a century ago, and we suspect it may have been the first such venue in the UK.

Its standalone site, around the corner from the Arnolfini Arts Centre, also makes it a local landmark.

First, the happier side of the story. Founded in 1994 by Beverly and Jerry Arron, Mud Dock threw a party last Friday to celebrate 25 years in business in which it has sold 12,000-plus bikes, as well as hosting guests including writer Will Self, fashion designer and cycling nut Paul Smith and, in a city which is a rugby union hotbed, the All Blacks team.

Mud Dock 25th anniversary party

Mud Dock 25th anniversary party

It now also has a bike shed, workshop and showering facility, developed in partnership with the council to cater for the city’s bike commuters, and is even licensed for weddings.

Looking back on the past quarter century, Beverly Arron said: “There have been glittering highs and brutal lows, but I’m so proud of what we’ve built, and the great friends we’ve made,

“I remember selling a cup of tea to our first customer, back in 1994, as though it were yesterday. It was so strange after months of paying contractors to finally have someone offering me money – I almost turned it down!

“Some of my favourite memories are of the Mud Dock race team turning up to races – usually late – in our Dodge Ram pick-up truck, plastered with Mud Dock logos and full of bikes and beer.

“It’s been thrilling to watch the cycling community in Bristol grow around us, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.”

On the same day the 25th anniversary bash took place, however, BBC News Bristol ran a story about a challenge facing the business as it enters its second quarter-century of trading – a massive rent increase, backdated to 2015, that has landed it with a bill in excess of £100,000.

The premises are leased from Bristol City Council, which says the rent is “regularly reviewed by an independent surveyor,” whom it insists “negotiates the new rent with the council and tenant.”

Jerry Arron told BBC News that rent review meetings, which take place every five years, had “usually been very amicable,” but at the latest one the council had put forward an increase of 73.6 per cent.

He continued: "I don't think it's fair that they're squeezing us as hard as they are. In the 25 years we've been here we've put between 12,000 to 15,000 bicycles on the streets of Bristol and I employ 34 people.

“We're a small independent business. It puts us in a very invidious position.

“What we're adding to the city is something more than a fiscal transaction. We do bring quite a lot to the city.

“The rent is being assessed on a restaurant use on the ground floor, but it has only ever been used as a retail space” – something that is abundantly clear to anyone who has visited Mud Dock over the past 25 years.

In a statement, the council told BBC News: “If no agreement can be negotiated then the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors appoints an expert or arbitrator to set the level of rent independently.”

That’s a standard feature of commercial property leases containing a five-year rent review clause (which in itself is often defined as “upwards only” – ie the rent will go up, but never down – but one that tenants may be reluctant to invoke due to a combination of the cost of legal and other specialist advice, plus the effect it may have on their future relationship with the landlord.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

Add new comment

20 comments

Avatar
Shades | 4 years ago
0 likes

Bought a Cannondale hybrid from them in 2000; still going as my commuter/'do anything' bike, albeit with some worn out bits replaced!

Avatar
ktache | 4 years ago
0 likes

I used to commute from Mosely to Birmingham Uni every day for 5 1/2 years, via the wonderful Cannon hill park, and it's a small enough city that everywhere was accessable by bicycle.  That was either side of the millenium.  And facilities are better now.  Good on the 1.6%.

And in my over 30 years of bicycle commuting I have never showered when I got to work.  A shower or bath when I wake up, a clean shirt on the bike and and a fresh T shirt at work has always been enough.  And I sweat, lots.

Avatar
dodgy | 4 years ago
0 likes

Liverpool is terrible to cycle around, it's famous for it. And Liverpool isn't quite the black and white pathé news clips city it might have been 70 years ago.

Hardly anyone cycle commutes in Liverpool, the ones that do are notable for it. I have lots of keen cyclist mates around here, a couple commute using the Mersey Ferry, but they have jobs just on the shoreline on the other side, so most of their cycle commute is on the relatively quiet Wirral side.

 

https://www.citymetric.com/transport/which-english-cities-have-most-cycl...

 

"What's more, those cities where less than 2 per cent of people cycle to work include some biggies. In Liverpool and Leeds it's 1.8 per cent; it's Birmingham it's ust 1.6 per cent. (In London, for what it's worth, it's a more healthy 3.7 per cent.)"

Avatar
jollygoodvelo | 4 years ago
1 like

This is pretty stupid and shameful of the City council.  One of the reasons Bristol's harbour area is so "iconic" is that it retains a mix of shops, bars, converted warehouses, and so on.  That variety of use means that all around the year, different people are drawn to the area and it's the key to the vibrant atmosphere around there which, yes, supports the prices paid for some waterfront flats and commercial units. 

But if you get big pound signs in your eyes and try to cash in on that popularity or overdevelop the area, you end up with something more like London, where we all know there's a river there but for a lot of the centre it's pretty hard to actually see it (especially from the north bank) unless you're on a bridge crossing it, because the entire bank is taken up with expensive flats, hotels and office blocks.

Still, since when did the council care about anything other than money.

Avatar
brooksby replied to jollygoodvelo | 4 years ago
0 likes
jollygoodvelo wrote:

But if you get big pound signs in your eyes and try to cash in on that popularity or overdevelop the area, you end up with something more like London, where we all know there's a river there but for a lot of the centre it's pretty hard to actually see it (from the north bank) unless you're on a bridge crossing it, because the entire bank is taken up with expensive flats, hotels and office blocks.

There are plans for the Watershed to redevelop and expand too - they're expanding their cafe facilities, building new workspaces behind (between the Watershed and the old Imax) and putting in a new cinema screen where the tourist info centre currently is.  Also means that they'll be reducing the size of that crafters market that they have along the riverside at the weekends.

It seems to me that the harbourside and the centre really doesn't need any more cafes or bars, but, y'know, money.

Avatar
RobD | 4 years ago
3 likes

Is the rent increase not capped as a part of the lease? you'd have thought there'd be a maximum amount that a landlord can increase the rent by in any given period, maybe 15-20% beyond that it starts to feel pretty unreasonable regardless of what the business is doing. Clearly councils haven't made the link between the ridiculous rates they've been charging and the collapse of high street retail.

Avatar
peted76 replied to RobD | 4 years ago
3 likes
RobD wrote:

Is the rent increase not capped as a part of the lease? you'd have thought there'd be a maximum amount that a landlord can increase the rent by in any given period, maybe 15-20% beyond that it starts to feel pretty unreasonable regardless of what the business is doing. Clearly councils haven't made the link between the ridiculous rates they've been charging and the collapse of high street retail.

^^ This. 

Avatar
brooksby | 4 years ago
2 likes

How are they able to backdate monies owed after a rent review?

Avatar
dobs | 4 years ago
0 likes

Does capitalism work? This could be a starting point for discussion?

Avatar
dobs | 4 years ago
0 likes

Does capitalism work? This could be a starting point for discussion?

Avatar
dobs | 4 years ago
5 likes

I was lucky to visit Bristol earlier this year, staying in our campervan on the very popular site on the quay. We visited the Mud Dock cafe/bike shop and really enjoyed it and spent a  lot of money in the city, unfortunately the caravan site is also under pressure from the council and may have to close at some point - probably to build more luxury flats? There are some things that can be done, I'm a customer of Bristol Energy, a not for profit branch of the Council, If other customers put pressure on and threaten to end their contracts if the Mud Dock rent increase goes ahead then the cost/benefit may not look so good?

Avatar
Redvee replied to dobs | 4 years ago
2 likes
dobs wrote:

I'm a customer of Bristol Energy, a not for profit branch of the Council.

 

They're holding up to that plan, for the year to MaArch 2019 they made a £10m loss.

 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-49293475

Avatar
hawkinspeter | 4 years ago
5 likes

Definitely unfair to charge them for having a restaurant downstairs when they don't (upstairs only).

Avatar
Eton Rifle replied to hawkinspeter | 4 years ago
8 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

Definitely unfair to charge them for having a restaurant downstairs when they don't (upstairs only).

That whole 'independent surveyor' thing stinks. Restaurants have been closing all over Bristol over the past few years. The idea that restaurant owners are queuing up to pay this sort of rent is bollocks.

Mud Dock is a great place. Some superb bike porn on the ground floor and a genuinely nice cafe upstairs. Food is great and they showed the Spring Classics on TV there this year. If you're visiting, Bristol, give them a try.

Avatar
Awavey replied to Eton Rifle | 4 years ago
0 likes
Eton Rifle wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:

Definitely unfair to charge them for having a restaurant downstairs when they don't (upstairs only).

That whole 'independent surveyor' thing stinks. Restaurants have been closing all over Bristol over the past few years. The idea that restaurant owners are queuing up to pay this sort of rent is bollocks. Mud Dock is a great place. Some superb bike porn on the ground floor and a genuinely nice cafe upstairs. Food is great and they showed the Spring Classics on TV there this year. If you're visiting, Bristol, give them a try.

but the rent review doesnt account for what people are willing to pay, its measuring what people have paid, so if lots of new businesses in the hospitality sector open up in that area, but agreed to paying over the odds in rent to secure a location, as was common practice for one restaurant chain I know that ultimately went out of business but in the process left a trail of destroyed neighbouring businesses as well, purely because of the feedback loop nature of the rent reviews, meant these local business rents quickly became unsustainable.

and alot of new bars/restaurants/cafes have opened in that area of Bristol in the last 8 years, so right on the bubble of a 5 year rent review, where Im not surprised rents have increased that much.

I dont think its right given here the business is clearly beneficial to the community and ought to be the kind of thing a council as a landlord should support, really their ought to be a limit on the percentage of rent raises, but I doubt theyve got the figures wrong in this case.

Avatar
Eton Rifle replied to Awavey | 4 years ago
4 likes
Awavey wrote:
Eton Rifle wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:

Definitely unfair to charge them for having a restaurant downstairs when they don't (upstairs only).

That whole 'independent surveyor' thing stinks. Restaurants have been closing all over Bristol over the past few years. The idea that restaurant owners are queuing up to pay this sort of rent is bollocks. Mud Dock is a great place. Some superb bike porn on the ground floor and a genuinely nice cafe upstairs. Food is great and they showed the Spring Classics on TV there this year. If you're visiting, Bristol, give them a try.

but the rent review doesnt account for what people are willing to pay, its measuring what people have paid, so if lots of new businesses in the hospitality sector open up in that area, but agreed to paying over the odds in rent to secure a location, as was common practice for one restaurant chain I know that ultimately went out of business but in the process left a trail of destroyed neighbouring businesses as well, purely because of the feedback loop nature of the rent reviews, meant these local business rents quickly became unsustainable.

and alot of new bars/restaurants/cafes have opened in that area of Bristol in the last 8 years, so right on the bubble of a 5 year rent review, where Im not surprised rents have increased that much.

I dont think its right given here the business is clearly beneficial to the community and ought to be the kind of thing a council as a landlord should support, really their ought to be a limit on the percentage of rent raises, but I doubt theyve got the figures wrong in this case.

You're kinda making my point for me. A valuation method that looks at historical data is useless for current decision making. It's like that old accountancy joke (yes, they do exist) where a guy stands up and says that, according to historical cost accounting, he weighs 8lb 6oz.

Frankly, I don't trust Bristol City Council at all. Far too much luxury student accommodation appearing in the city recently, far too expensive for the average student, and way too many overpriced flats.

Avatar
leaway2 | 4 years ago
9 likes

I just can't imagine why local business are leaving the the town's and city high streets.
73% ffs.

Avatar
dodgy | 4 years ago
5 likes

Pure greed.

As far as your suspicion that this was the first cafe/bike shop in the UK, I think Simon O'Brien (Damon in Brookside, now Liverpool's cycling tszar) got there first with 'The Hub' in Liverpool in the very early 90s, it was next to the Black Horse and Rainbow .

They even had Hope Hubs drilled and converted to salt and pepper pots.

Way ahead of its time, they even had showers for cycle commuters, almost nobody was cycle commuting in Liverpool back then!

 

Avatar
alansmurphy replied to dodgy | 4 years ago
1 like
dodgy wrote:

 

Way ahead of its time, they even had showers for cycle commuters, almost nobody was cycle commuting in Liverpool back then!

 

 

Really? I'd have thought there would have been thousands in lower paid jobs commuting by bike...

Avatar
brooksby replied to alansmurphy | 4 years ago
0 likes
alansmurphy wrote:
dodgy wrote:

Way ahead of its time, they even had showers for cycle commuters, almost nobody was cycle commuting in Liverpool back then!

Really? I'd have thought there would have been thousands in lower paid jobs commuting by bike...

Isn't Liverpool one of those cities where there's black-and-white archive footage of swarms of pedestrians and cyclists coming out of factory/yard gates at the end of the working day?

Latest Comments