Regional Report

Could Bristol be the setting for your next pub venture?

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Building bridges: what makes Bristol a good place to operate a pub?
Building bridges: what makes Bristol a good place to operate a pub?
A growing population in Bristol – especially of a younger age – has resulted in a city that has offers a thriving licensed sector

Bristol in numbers

  • There are 345 pubs employing 5,575 people (Source: British Beer and Pub Association)
  • In 2017, there were more than a quarter of a million (267,000) employee jobs in Bristol, up from 258,000 in 2016
  • Between 2016 and 2017, the number of employee jobs in Bristol grew by 3.5% (Source: State of Bristol key facts 2018-19 quoting Business Register and Employment Survey)
  • 246,100 working-age residents were in employment in June 2018 – this is equivalent to an employment rate of 78.9%, which is 3.9 percentage points above the national (GB) average (Source: State of Bristol key facts 2018-19 quoting Annual Population Survey)
  • Since 2006, 21,520 new homes have been built in the city, an average of some 1,793 a year (Source: State of Bristol key facts 2018-19 quoting figures from the Valuation Office Agency)

The former port of Bristol is in the throes of a transformation. As the largest city in the south-west it is growing – in population, developments and it has a burgeoning independent licensed sector.

According to statistics from the British Beer & Pub Association there are 345 pubs employing 5,575 in the city.

A report from Bristol City Council called State of Bristol: Key facts 2018-19 (February 2019 update)​ has revealed Bristol’s population is increasing at a higher rate than other similar UK cities.

It currently has an estimated population of 459,300. ­This is estimated to have increased by 11.5% (47,400 people), since 2007, compared to an England and Wales increase of only 8%.

As a city, it has a relatively young population. The median age of people living in Bristol is 32.7 years compared to 39.9 years in England and Wales.

Pubs for sale

The Windmill, Windmill Hill, Bristol


Price: £525,000

Tenure: Freehold

Agent: Fleurets, 0117 923 8090

The Windmill is a two-storey end-of-terrace property believed to date from the Victorian period, with a single-storey extension to the side. The property is arranged to provide extensive split-level trading areas at ground floor level with the added benefit of external seating. The upper floor provides a large owner’s/ manager’s flat.

Amoeba, Clifton, Bristol


Price: £95,000

Tenure: Leasehold

Rent: £43,529

Turnover: £270,109 (2016-17)

Wet:dry split: 100:0

Agent: Christie & Co 0117 9468521

Amoeba is situated in an attractive terrace that includes shops and restaurants. Clifton Village is an affluent area, steeped in history and famed for its stunning Georgian architecture. The site also benefits from a 1am licence.

Bauhinia Bar & Restaurant, Clifton, Bristol


Price: £85,000

Tenure: Leasehold

Rent: £33,000

Agent: Christie & Co 0117 9468521

The bar is set in a period building on busy Boyce’s Avenue. It is a family run business and would suit a similar owner/operator. It may also appeal to a branded operation looking for a site in Bristol. It trades in the evenings only, so there is an opportunity to develop a lunchtime and post-work trade.

Attractive to professionals

If the trend continues, the population of Bristol is projected to increase by 95,100 over a 25-year period (2016-41), which will reach 551,100. Bristol local authority has projected that by mid-2027 it will have more than half a million residents for the first time.

Alongside a large, young, residential population, Bristol is also home to two universities, an airport and has a vibrant economy with international firms BAE, Airbus, Rolls Royce and KPMG.

Paul Davey, managing director at property agent Davey Co, says that there is a strong economic base in Bristol that attracts many young professionals.


“­The principle economy revolves around defence, tech companies and financial services,” he says. “It is a really interesting city to watch as it has come on so much in the past 10 to 15 years. It’s been transformational.”

He says that while many of the major pub operators are represented in the city, there is a strong independent market, including many small, multiple operators.

“It is also very affordable. It has some of the best-value sites in the country in Bristol,” he says.

Bristol (3)

Fleurets head of urban markets Kevin Conibear agrees that the economic situation in the city is good for operators with many developments and multi-use leisure sites coming on stream. But, like other cities, the casual-dining sector has suffered with over-rented leases.

“But Bristol is very much in growth and it is attracting good-quality and different operators to the market,” he says. “It has become a creative and tech hub with a lot of incubator companies starting up and relocations from London.”

Increasing numbers of people are moving into the city with the raft of new build apartments – many of these are mixed use with office and leisure space.

Much of the recent development focus, Conibear reveals, has been on the riverside and harbour front. ­ ere is also an enterprise zone around Bristol Temple Meads station, a 70-hectare development, which includes office schemes with residential and commercial use.

Bristol (2)

On top of that is Wapping Wharf, a new quarter where local bar-restaurant operators can lease cargo containers on short leases, while King Street and Welsh Back have become a hub of the craft beer operators.

“Bristol is in a major growth phase. It is very well stocked at the moment but there are big developments south and east of the city,” he says.

“You also have places like the Harbourside with corporates such as Wetherspoon and Pitcher & Piano that tends to attract a younger crowd aged 18 to 25.”

Left Handed Giant opening

But the independent operator remains strong in the city and there is resurgence in new concepts and trading areas.

“Independent areas, such as Stokes Croft and Gloucester Road, which are very arty, are popular areas to live. ­These are circuits in their own right,” he says.

Like many cities there is a lack of freehold opportunities but that has not stopped companies such as City Pub Company from opening sites. But the biggest opening of the year was that of Left Handed Giant Brewing Co, the local brewer.

Its brewpub opened at Finzels Reach in the heart of the city on 13 June 2019, funded by the 1,500 people via crowdfunding.

Left Handed Giant Brewing Co has owned Small Bar in King Street since 2013 and started producing beer in Bristol in 2015.

“Our original plan was to operate bars in both Bristol and a couple of neighbouring cities."

Bristol (1)

But as we spent more time in Bristol and saw, first-hand, the support the local community has towards independent business, we decided that any future growth would be within the city,” said Jack Granger, operations director, Left Handed Giant Brewing Co.

“We’ve recently opened our new brewpub in Finzels Reach, in a building with over 250 years of Bristol brewing heritage, with the hope of creating a world-class brewing and drinking venue in the iconic building in Bristol city centre.”

Done deals

Anchor Inn, Eckington, West Midlands

Anchor (2)

Price: £25,000

Tenure: Free-of-tie lease

Turnover: circa £65,000

Wet:dry split: 75:25

Rent: £24,000

Landlord: Private

Agent: Guy Simmonds 01332 865112

The village inn and restaurant is situated within the Worcestershire village of Eckington, a sought-after village, sitting on the edge of the Cotswolds and the Gloucestershire border. The property was o­ffered in excellent condition and benefits from a public bar (circa 30 covers), lounge bar (25c) and a restaurant (45c).

The Devonshire Club, Northampton

Devonshire (11)

Price: Guide price £30,000

Tenure: Leasehold

Turnover: £120,000

Wet:dry split: 100:0

Rent: £10,000

Landlord: Private

Agent: Davey Co 0333 200 8788

This venue was formerly a private members’ club, with a capacity for more than 180 people. It is in a busy location near Franklin’s Gardens rugby ground in a mixed residential, retail and commercial area on the edge of the city centre. It has the potential to provide an extensive dining facility.

To find out more about pubs for sale, lease and tenancy visit our property site​.

Related topics: Property law

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