Tide turning on tied sites
York pub operator Dale Pollard, who has a mini-estate of seven pubs, has bought the freeholds of two pubs from a group of three Enterprise outlets he leases. Pollard, who also runs an accountancy business, obtained £1.2m of NatWest Bank funding to do the deal. The pubs are the Flag & Whistle in York and the Traveller's Rest in Cockerston, near Darlington. Unusually, all of his Enterprise pubs, one of which he has run for 17 years, are free of tie. He has some interesting views on tied pubs and the way things have changed recently: "I wouldn't have touched a tied pub with a barge pole until a year ago. Things have changed dramatically in that time — I do the accountancy work for 20 or so pubs and I've seen a very favourable response from Enterprise in the past year. They've really moved to aid lessees who are struggling, but who it wants to stay. The pubs I've bought are high-end stuff — if somebody had said to me a few years back that I'd get the chance to buy them, I'd have said, 'Show me the straitjacket'."
Whether it be wether or wither
Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin admits that the company's name may well be a misspelling. The company was named after a geography teacher at a school he attended in New Zealand when he was 11. But when he returned to New Zealand a few years ago he discovered not a single Wetherspoon in the phone book. The nearest name was Witherspoon.
Taking a view on Enterprise sales
Six top Enterprise sites sold like hot cakes at last week's Allsops property auction easily thrashing the top-end guide prices. Here's a view on the subject from a City Diary contact: "It's selling these pubs for a 14 to 15-times multiple of earnings thanks to low bank interest rates and its promise as a FTSE 250 to pay rent for 35 years. A buyer is, of course, picking up a really first-rate pub that will be easy to tenant even if Enterprise disappears from the equation. Nevertheless, I'd want to be a buyer of the early first-rate stuff, not the 200th pub, a boozer in Rotherham, say, coming to the auction market from Enterprise. Overall, it's Enterprise seeking out the very best price available for a freehold pub by leveraging a rental promise. It's only what certain JD Wetherspoon property investors did — although without its knowledge."
Hard-up students hit the high street
Luminar boss Steve Thomas rings City Diary for a nice chat. He reckons footfall on the high street may be down by around 12%, with students particularly hard up. Doesn't normally stop them from going out, I know, but this year there's a computer glitch that has meant their grants haven't come through — and some of them have been relying on hand-outs from parents to get through. Anybody else feeling a bit choked?
Historic relief over recession
Reassuring news on recessions from Henley Centre founding director Paul Ormerod. He's studied around 200 recessions across 17 countries for the period between 1870 and 2007. Of these, 147 lasted one year, 45 lasted two years and only 16 lasted more than two years — almost all of those in the 1930s.
Punch is flexible friend to Clover
And the tie flexes again. Andy Wilkinson, boss of managed multiple Clover Taverns, has praised Punch Taverns for partially releasing one of his pubs, the Old Black Bull, Preston, from its cask tie. The pub has been released from all of its cask tie apart from Boddingtons for an uplift in rent. Wilkinson tells City Diary: "As a multiple operator we have other free-of-tie outlets focusing on cask ales, and wanted to bring the Old Black Bull into our network of regional brewers. Punch was able to think outside the box on this occasion."
Pants-off stunt saves Pantmawr
A battle to keep a Mitchells & Butlers franchise pub open has been won — after some unavoidable nudity. A group of regulars at Cardiff's Pantmawr Inn first hit headlines two years ago after stripping off in protest at plans to develop the site as housing. The stunt even resulted in a group of protesters highlighting their campaign on television's Al Murray Show alongside celebrity guests Piers Morgan, Kim Ryder and Michael Winner. Now Jon Bassett, who has been running the pub for the past two years on a temporary basis, said he has signed a contract with owner Mitchells & Butlers to secure the venue's future for the next 10 years. Bassett, who has four M&B franchises in total, says: "It's been a long haul, but we've finally got there and the residents are over the moon." Hurrah!
Pubco climbers hit heights in African adventure that raised £30,000
Four pub operators have return to the UK after successfully climbing Mount Kilimanjaro — 5,895 metres high — for charity. Paul Salisbury, who runs Lovely Pubs and has opened more than 50 Project Orange gastropubs for Mitchells & Butlers, David Salisbury, who runs Salisbury pubs, and Lee Cash, who runs Peach Pub Company, plus Peach staffer Tim Doyle have raised £30,000 after completing the week-long trip. Paul Salisbury said: "It was bloody hard work — a long hard slog. None of us suffered altitude sickness and I was first up by 10 minutes — the other three would say it's because I didn't have a rucksack. We spent five days working our way up and acclimatising. The last seven-hour push through the night is the killer. Then it takes a day and a half to come down on the easier route. It was great, but I wouldn't do it again." The group threw a party for 300 people at Peach Pub Company's Almanack in Kenilworth on Sunday for their return, auctioning off souvenirs like the quartets' walking boots. The intrepid bunch can still be sponsored on www.thethreemountaineers.co.uk.