City Diary — 25 February

By The PMA Team

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Great yarmouth City diary Norfolk Norwich

Norwegian Blue: dead not resting
Norwegian Blue: dead not resting
All the latest gossip and rumour from the City.

Administrators' cashing in

City Diary has begun a search to find the most expensive company administrator. Last month, Zolfo Cooper made a claim to the title — it was charging £425 an hour for senior partners and £75 an hour for support staff on the administration of Suburban Style Bar Company. Step forward, BD0. It's been charging £645 a hour for partner time and £88 an hour for support staff time on the Mercury Inns administration.

Smoke ban's toll on Gt Yarmouth

Anyone who visited Great Yarmouth, the seaside resort in Norfolk, 10 years ago would have been startled by the number of traditional land-locked terraced pubs in the town. (City Diary certainly was.) Fast-forward 10 years and the town provides a vivid example of the kind of pub that's ill-equipped to survive the smoking ban. One borough councillor, Mick Castle, has done a count-up and estimates that up to half of Great Yarmouth's pubs may have closed in the past five years. Since the general election of 2005 about 30 pubs, bars and clubs have closed, with only about 30 remaining. He blames the smoking ban. "Younger drinkers prefer to get a case of cheap lager from supermarkets and stay at home drinking because they can't see the appeal of standing in the rain and cold to smoke."

JDW lines up new Norfolk openings

And talking of Norfolk, the county has been sporadically penetrated by JD Wetherspoon in the years since it opened the Bell in Norwich in 1993, its first real move away from Greater London. Other Wetherspoon venues popped up in Great Yarmouth and then King's Lynn (where it has two sites). Otherwise , Norfolk has been Wetherspoon-free. All that's about to change with some serious in-fill. The company's at an advanced stage in buying the Pheonix Hotel in Dereham and is looking hard in Fakenham. Company spokesman Eddie Gershon has insisted that the town's vacant Crown is not a target — but it was considering a different building in the area.

Wylam's cheese and Champagne

Sunderland-based Wylam Leisure, which runs around eight venues, is fighting its own battle for standards. Take its new Sunderland acquisition, Bud Bigallows, and upstairs pole-dancing bar, Players' Lounge. Boss Tony Griffiths has decided to reposition the venue — at the polar opposite end of the spectrum. It will become a Champagne bar upstairs, while downstairs will focus on serving up crowd-pleasing cheesy music. Griffiths says: "As soon as we were put in charge of Bud Bigallows we decided to axe what they had on a Monday, which was the busiest night.

The reason for this was because it was £5 to drink as much as you like, and anyone who knows Wylam Leisure knows that we are totally against these kinds of promotions." Of his plans downstairs he added: "I want it to be known as the Cheddar cheese bar because I want it to be the cheesiest bar in Sunderland."

BBPA's crocked Wikipedia entry

Fun and games with the British Beer & Pub Association Wikipedia entry. Somebody edited the entire entry last week with the end result reading very much like a Fair Pint take on the organisation's role. The amended entry read: "It represents the interests of some property companies that own the freehold interests of pub premises and these are called 'pub companies'. These companies do not generally run pubs as they do not have the retail expertise." And so on. Fortunately the BBPA's entry was "normalised" within 24 hours.

Tesco circles over dead pubs

Supermarkets buying pubs and redeveloping them is a well-established trend. Tesco looks like it's now moving in on a few dead town-centre super-pubs. The behemoth secured the lease of the former Yates's Wine Lodge in the centre of Guildford, Surrey, for £60,000 a year and has also taken on the ground floor of the Pigeons in Stratford, east London. The Pigeons was recently sold freehold for just under £1m to a developer, who is converting its two upper storeys to residential units. "It is not surprising that Tesco has seen potential in these two former pubs. They are both in busy, high-footfall urban areas close to major transport links. They are ideal sites for local stores," says Anthony Alder of licensed leisure specialists AG&G, which dealt with the rental of the Yates's property and the sale of the Pigeons.

Tye fills Punch portfolio gaps

Punch managed boss Mike Tye is focused on plugging portfolio gaps in the division with new concepts and an evolution of Chef & Brewer. How's it going? Tye tells City Diary: "We've done Fayre & Square and have more sites ready to go. The same is true for the new Chef & Brewer. We are still doing Metro sites. There is only one Roast Inn so far, but we will trial further. Every Day Gastro will move to more sites over the coming months (like Roast Inn we're still in the learning phase). Flaming Grill was purposefully delayed, but will be on-site imminently. The same applies to one other concept." We're watching with interest.

Norwegian Blue joins choir invisible

The Norwegian Blue bar in Norwich is likely to be dead not resting. Managed company Tattershall Castle has given up the ghost on the oddly named Norwegian Blue venue, a brand originally created by someone unimaginative at Scottish & Newcastle Retail ages ago who was likely to have been a Monty Python fan. The venue is sited in the city's Riverside complex, which has been dead as a parrot since the closure of two of its flagship venues Lava/Ignite nightclub and the Hollywood Bowl bowling alley two years ago. Tattershall Castle owns Norwegian Blue and nearby Squares — and has decided the former is a stiff and deserves to be pushing up the daisies. The 25-year leaseholds at both bars are still up for sale through Christie+Co's Ipswich office.

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£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

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