Award-winning licensees Leonard & McCartan secure second Sussex pub

By Mark Wingett

- Last updated on GMT

Licensees Tony Leonard and Dominic McCartan have secured a second pub
Licensees Tony Leonard and Dominic McCartan have secured a second pub
Licensees Dominic McCartan and Tony Leonard have said that they could eventually grow an estate of five pubs across Sussex, after taking on their second pub, the Roebuck Inn in East Sussex.

However, the pair, who revealed that turnover at their freehouse, the Snowdrop Inn, in Lewes, topped £1m last year, said that any further expansion would be very slow.

Leonard told the PMA​'s sister title M&C Report:​ “I wouldn’t want to expand beyond the point where we weren’t hands on in each pub. We are licensees first and foremost and I think the question of how many pubs you can run whilst maintaining that personal touch is very interesting.

"We’ve run three simultaneously in the past and that was a comfortable number for us. I can’t envisage more than five; after that it becomes a chain, and that wouldn’t be right for us.

“So, somewhere between two and five pubs would be desirable but we have no immediate plans beyond the Roebuck and any further expansion would be very slow. We’ve only ever taken on failing pubs and turned them around so that really limits the rate of expansion.”

Award-winning

The couple, who publicly fell out with Greene King over unsustainable rents at their award-winning Brighton pubs, say that takings at the Snowdrop have now surpassed their previous record turnover at their former pub, the Hop Poles, in its best ever year.

Gross turnover at the former pubco-owned Snowdrop was £1,052,740 for 2013, an increase of 12.75% on 2012, which was itself an increase of 17.2% on the year before.

The couple bought the Snowdrop in September 2009 from Punch Taverns have transformed the pub’s fortunes in the four years since then. It was awarded Best Freehouse, Best Food Pub and Best Cask Beer Pub in the South East and London Region in the Publican’s Morning Advertiser​ Great British Pub Awards 2012 and the pair also received an award from the All-party Parliamentary Beer Group for services to their local community.

Potential

The Roebuck Inn in nearby Laughton, the only one in the East Sussex village, has been closed since March 2013. It has been bought by Rachel Daniels, a local resident, and a free-of-tie private lease has been agreed.

The pub is currently undergoing a major refurbishment and is set to open in the spring.

“We are hugely excited about the Roebuck,” said Leonard. “It’s another pub with a huge amount of potential and the villagers are really keen to see their pub open again. We’ll bring the same mix of great food, excellent beer and a warm, friendly atmosphere but it has its own character as well, which we can see emerging as the building work takes place.

“It also has letting rooms, which is a new venture for us and a huge room that will be perfect for weddings and other celebrations.”

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