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Hard-up landlord buys pub and discovers it’s sitting on ‘liquid gold mine’

Doran Binder, 49, bought the Crag Inn near Macclesfield in 2016 and when he got the water inspected for consumption he was told it was some of the purest water in the world

Doran Binder set up Crag Mineral Water after discovering a natural spring underneath his pub

A landlord who bought a pub couldn’t believe it when he found he was sitting on a “liquid gold mine”.

Doran Binder, 49, bought the Crag Inn near Macclesfield in 2016.

He said he was at “rock bottom” at the time of taking on the small country pub because of his divorce, Cheshire Live reports.

Not long after buying the pub, he had to get the water tested as part of an inspection to make sure it was safe for the public to drink.

He was worried about the costs as inspectors had to dig deep, but he learned that the aquifer that runs 27 metres below the pub has some of the purest water in the world.



The water is so popular that he has concentrated all his efforts into the business and closed the pub
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Image:

Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)




And with 700,000 litres of it – which is enough to fill more than a million bottles a day – Doran has found himself sitting on liquid gold.

He says he has even been approached by a boutique US drinks manufacturer that sells high-end mineral water to elite clients for up to £109 ($150) a bottle.

Doran says he’s turned that down and decided to run his own glass bottling operation straight from the pub as he says he continues to receive calls from India, China and the US.



Doran says he was approached by a boutique US drinks manufacturer that sells high-end mineral water to elite clients for up to £109 ($150) a bottle – but turned it down
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Image:

Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)




The dad-of-five said he was working for Bumble and bumble – a US hair care products brand, and living between the US and UK when he decided to buy the country pub.

He said: “We were living 900 metres away on a farm, and we got divorced. I thought if I bought the pub I could be close to the kids. I knew the pub was failing, but I thought I’d just buy it and see what happened.

“At the time I was working in New York and quite happy. I bought this, I’m commuting two weeks here, two weeks there, I’ve got a great little life. I thought, ‘I’ll run it for a year, see how it goes and then make a decision about what we do with the pub’.



Doran bought the Crag Inn near Macclesfield in 2016




“Because it’s a pub we have to undergo annual testing to make sure the water is safe for public consumption. I invited Blair Water round because they’re the company that his historically tested the water every year.

“I approached the meeting thinking, ‘I’m going to have to spend ten grand on this water, I know it’. So Richard Taylor, who owns Blair Water, comes along and we sit in the pub. I’ve never met him before, and the first thing he says to me is, ‘Do you know how good your water is, mate?’ He said he’d told the previous owners for twenty years that they should be bottling it and selling it, but they never did.

“He said, ‘I’ve been drilling water for forty years, all over the world, and this is the best water I’ve drilled by a mile, anywhere.’ He said there was nothing geologically to indicate good water in the area, but what I’d hit was a ‘vein of gold’ coming off Shutlingsloe hill.”



Doran takes pride in his bottling business which re-uses glass bottles to be more environmentally-friendly
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Image:

Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)




When he say how good the water was he sold everything and starting bottling it in May 2018.

He set about turning the pub into a bottle processing plant. He uses only glass bottles, which are washed and refilled when they are returned.

He said: “I was still sceptical – surely I can’t just make money from putting water into bottles?”

But the reality sank in three months in, when, Doran says, he was approached by a well-established American firm.

He sent them a sample and they loved the water but thought putting it in a reusable glass bottle was a marketing gimmick.

He added: “I explained that it wasn’t a marketing gimmick, it’s about environmental awareness and that’s the direction I want it to go in, so I held off supplying them.”



Doran’s business also provides internships in collaboration with the Rossendale Trust, which works with people with learning difficulties
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Image:

Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel)




His company, Crag Spring Water, now employs 12 people who operate out of the pub’s old dining room. The pub is now closed and the water business is now Doran’s main focus.

The glass bottles are delivered by crate straight to the doors of customers, be that in the company’s own van, or by the dairies that now stock the water and deliver it on the morning milk rounds. The still waters sell at £12 for 12 750ml bottles, the sparkling at £15 for the same amount.

Doran is proud of the company’s environmental credentials and is passionate about using glass and not plastic.

The firm also provides internships in collaboration with the Rossendale Trust, which works with people with learning difficulties.

He said: “When I thought about how this gift came along at the worst point in my life, when I was really rock bottom, I thought someone’s looking out for me here, and I want to do everything I can to make the product as environmentally-friendly as I can.

“But then I thought about the Rossendale Trust being five minutes … that’s me paying back that debt, I suppose, to whoever it was looking out for me when I needed a bit of help.”


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