Regional report

Why is Dorset a unique place to own a pub?

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Dreaming of Dorset: Dorset has some beautiful areas, not least because it is on the south-west coast, yet it does rely on tourism alone to thrive
Dreaming of Dorset: Dorset has some beautiful areas, not least because it is on the south-west coast, yet it does rely on tourism alone to thrive
Beautiful locations and an economy that is not solely reliant on tourism makes Dorset an ideal place for year-round trade

Done deals

The Black Lion, Butterton, Staffordshire

Black Lion - Done deals

Price: £450,000

Tenure: Freehold

Turnover: £110,000 (inc VAT)

Landlord: Private

Wet:dry:accom split: 73:23:4

Agent: Guy Simmonds 01332 865112

This 18th century inn is located in the picture-postcard village of Butterton, which overlooks the Manifold Valley and Ecton Hill. It has a restaurant (32 covers), Goodwin’s Kitchen Bar (20c), darts room (16c), front bar (22c) and Walkers Bar (16c). It also has two commercial catering kitchens, three en-suite letting rooms, a garden area (100c) and a car park for 30 cars.


The Four Cross Roads, Frampton Fen, Boston, Lincolnshire

Four Cross Roads - Done deals

Price: Offers over £200,000

Tenure: Freehold

Turnover: Not supplied

Agent: Davey Co 0333 200 8788

This roadside freehouse and restaurant has an overall dining capacity of around 140 covers. It occupies a good-sized site with a 50-plus capacity car park. The pub offers a lounge bar diner with a conservatory restaurant supplemented by an outside trading terrace.

Dorset has been the star of many famous film and TV productions, including crime drama Broadchurch.

The south-west county boasts stunning scenery, beachside locations, easy access from major cities and an economy not solely dependent on tourism – meaning it has all year-round trade for the pub sector. From families to students to retirees, Dorset seems to have something for everyone.

There are 95 miles of its coastline that is a Jurassic Coast Natural World Heritage Site, due to its geological and palaeontological significance.

And as well as the rural and coastal regions boasting attractions such as Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, it also has well-populated towns such as Bournemouth, Weymouth, Poole and Christchurch.

With the variety of the landscape also comes the same in its pub market.


Palmers Brewery has been based in the region for 225 years and has 54 tenanted pubs in the county.

Tenanted trade director Jim Jones says the region is “blessed with some of the most dropdead gorgeous views”, which attract both tourists and residents to the area.

Palmers is keen to expand its estate in the county and is continuing to invest in its tenanted sites.

“When the right stuff comes along, we will be active in the market,” says Jones.

“The reality is there is not an awful lot of movement at the moment because it is such a thriving area.”

The benefit is that despite having a strong staycation market, it also has a year-round trade.

Affordable house prices in most of the region and good schools has made it not just a destination for the summer holiday season but for permanent residents, including families.

The region has also got “over the knotted hanky and deckchairs on the beach” image, Jones argues, with pubs premiumising and continuing to do so.

Where Dorset benefits in the holiday season is its location. It is much more accessible than Cornwall and Devon and is attractive to the short-break market as well as those wanting longer holidays.

“When I track where people are looking from on our website, it is the London, Bristol and Bath and everywhere you expect really,” says Jones.

Dorset (1)

“In our accommodation, we see a lot of short-term one or two-night breaks with people in London just getting away for the weekend.”

The area seems to be bucking the trend of the wider market, so much so, that more major pubcos are looking to expand there.

According to Jones: “There are a lot of pubcos chomping at the bit to get in on the action.”

And the all-round trade is not just attracting more of the big pubcos but famous chefs who are opening up in the region.

“It is only going to get better over the next few years,” Jones argues.

Dorset in numbers

  • The country comprises of the unitary authority areas of Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and Dorset
  • There were a total of 29,350,000 staying and day trips to Dorset in 2017. (Source: Visit Dorset)
  • There were 25.5m day visits to Dorset, worth £891.1m in 2017 (Source: Visit Dorset)
  • Dorset Council has a low birth rate but a higher death rate so without migration into the area, the population would decline
  • It has a smaller than average under-fives population but a higher-than-average population of over-65s
  • Projected growth shows that the over-65s population will grow by almost 50% during the next 25 years
Dorset (4)

Record sales levels

Matt Kearsey, managing director of Hall & Woodhouse, which operates 200 pubs across the south of England, agrees Dorset is thriving. The brewer and pub operator has been in the region since 1777.

“Dorset is a great place for people to live, work and take a holiday, so trading is good,” Kearsey says.

“Dorset is a county that promotes and allows you to enjoy being outdoors, so the fantastic summer that we had last year meant that we achieved record sales levels.”

The brewer and pub operator, which is based in Blandford Forum, says it will continue to invest in its existing estate and add to it with acquisitions when the right opportunities come along.

“Hall & Woodhouse has invested £30m into Dorset over the past five years. As part of an ongoing programme of reinvestment, we have refurbished many of our pubs across the county to enhance the communities where they trade.

Many pubs have had new features introduced and the interiors have been updated,” Kearsey says.

One area that it has invested in significantly is in adding bedrooms to its Dorset pubs.

Dorset (2)

“Following the success of rooms at our pubs like the Lulworth Cove Inn and the Duchess of Cornwall in Poundbury, we would like to continue to expand in this area,” he says.

Meanwhile, Paul Davey, managing director at property agent Davey Co, agrees the area has a vibrant economy.

“It has an awful lot going for it that many other counties don’t and, with that beautiful coastline, it is much more accessible than the likes of Devon and Cornwall,” he says.

Because the economic picture is so diverse in Dorset, he says, there is a broad range of successful licensed operators.

“All the majors are very well represented and you have successful regional brewers such as Ringwood and a particularly strong independent operator market,” he says.

“It is such a diverse county. It has a very strong year-round residential market, a strong commercial market, and very good student population around Bournemouth, which provides a different dynamic,” he adds.

Related topics: Property law

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