Interpub resumes its ambitious plan

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Interpub has returned to the expansion trail to open new sites of its St Christopher's Inns chain and Belushi's bars across the UK and the...

Interpub has returned to the expansion trail to open new sites of its St Christopher's Inns chain and Belushi's bars across the UK and the continent.

This week, it is to open its latest location for the two brands in Shepherd's Bush, West London - its first new site for over a year.

In May, it is to launch its first venue outside of London in the heart of Edinburgh while continuing to look elsewhere in London and other cities, such as York and Bath.

Last week, its management was in Paris looking for sites for the first overseas St Christopher's and Belushi's, with plans for more in Barcelona, Amsterdam, Madrid and Rome.

Managing director Keith Knowles said: "This is a very exciting time for us. St Christopher's and Belushi's are truly international brands because they have built a reputation around the world."

About 90 per cent of people who stay at St Christopher's hostels are from abroad, with most drinking and eating in the downstairs pubs or bars.

About 25 per cent are from North America and another 25 per cent from the continent.

With this week's London opening, Interpub will have six hostels, four Belushi's and two St Christopher's pubs and aims to have expanded to 20 sites by 2004.

Knowles said the global spread of the brand was reflected by the use of its website, which accounts for about half of bookings.

Interpub's funds were boosted in 1999 by a financing deal backed by Andy Searle and Mark Chitty of holiday giant Mark Warner and Scottish & Newcastle, plus a new debt facility from the Bank of Scotland.

In September, Mark Foster, from Scottish Courage and the food sector, took over from Ouse Auber as finance director.

The Shepherd's Bush site will have 68 beds and a Belushi's. In Edinburgh, it is converting a hotel next to Waverley station into a 108-bed hostel with two Belushi's bars.

It intends to run its future continental sites directly rather than as a franchise, maintaining standards through a training programme devised by Knowles' wife, Franca.

It bought Belushi's about six years ago from an independent operator but waited until 1999 to start rolling it out. Apart from the original Covent Garden outlet, there are two in Camden and Borough.

Most of its sites are leased from operators such as Unique Pub Company and Punch Pub Company.

Its first hostel opened in Borough four years ago, with a St Christopher's branded pub on the ground floor, which was later expanded with an annexe and a coffee bar.

Since then, it has opened a second St Christopher's hostel in Borough plus two more in Camden and Greenwich, where there is a second St Christopher's pub.

The hostels have dormitories with two to 10 beds in each, priced from about £12 a night, but bigger sites also feature a sauna, a hot tub and a sun roof terrace.

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