NewRiver licensees dealt double blow in Co-op decisions

By Oli Gross

- Last updated on GMT

The Ashwood Inn, Dudley
The Ashwood Inn, Dudley

Related tags Public house Tavern Crown inn

Two West Midlands licensees have been on the wrong end of council decisions following NewRiver Retail applications to sell "surplus" car park land to make way for Co-­op convenience stores.

The Ashwood Inn, Dudley, had an application to sell part of its land rejected, but the pub’s licensee Chris Miller said the sale is vital to the pub's long-term future.

A similar application was accepted for the Crown Inn in the same town, but the lessee Robin Wall told the PMA​ the sale would be bad for trade.

Former Marston's pubs 

Both pubs were part of the £90m sale of 202 venues from Marston’s to NewRiver Retail.

Many licensees expressed concerns that the new operator may sell pubs to convenience stores.

But the Ashwood’s licensee sees the benefits: "There are positives and negatives to selling. There will be less parking spaces but it makes the pub more profitable,” he said.

The pub's business rate is calculated with the size of the land owned by the pub, which would be reduced with a sale.

Customers understand 

45 Dudley residents wrote letters to Wordsley Council to oppose the sale.

Miller continued: "But my customers understand we need to sell for the pub to stay open. If it was closing down there would be hundreds of people fighting for us."

NewRiver Retail is considering an appeal.

Martin Hughes, spokesman for NewRiver, said: “The rates are calculated on the entire scope of the property. If we sell part of the land, then the rates can be reduced, leaving him with more than enough space.

“Another benefit is that convenience stores attract people on foot. Passers-by might notice the venue, and up until now they wouldn’t have known it was there.”

Bad for trade

On the flip side, an application to build a Co-op in the car park of the Crown Inn was accepted, despite licensee Robin Wall's view that selling land will not be in the pub's best interest.

"They’re probably going to sell alcohol at the Co-op so I don’t think it’s going to help the trade," Wall said.

The Crown Inn currently hosts private parties in its function room, which fills its car park with 40-­50 cars. The sale will leave the pub with only 11 spaces.

"There aren’t many pubs around here, they’ve gradually dwindled away. It’s not necessary, there are other shops nearby. Our regulars are against it," Wall added.

NewRiver also bought 158 pubs from Punch Taverns this year.

Community hub 

NewRiver's spokesman continued: “One of the objectives of siting new convenience stores alongside existing pubs is to create a ‘community hub’. Most visits to convenience stores are by foot and there is good potential for pubs to attract visitors to such dual use sites throughout the week.

"We aim to work with the licensees of the pubs we own to help them take advantage of that and will also consider further investment in our pubs to increase their attractiveness to customers.

"There are many retail outlets which sell alcohol and plenty of opportunities for people to purchase at supermarket prices. The extensive availability of cheap alcohol for home consumption has been a major challenge to the licensed trade for many years."

Related topics Property law

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