Regional Report

Why own a pub in York?

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Old York city: an in depth look at why York may be the place for you?
Old York city: an in depth look at why York may be the place for you?

Related tags York

York has gone through many changes since the Romans are believed to have founded the city – and statistics show licensed premises numbers have risen during the past 10 years.

York in numbers

  • There are 194 pubs in the York City Council area that employ 5,493 people. (Source: British Beer & Pub Association)
  • The population of York in 2011 was 198,051 with 83,552 households
  • Some 16.6% of York’s population was qualified up to level 3 (the highest regionally and 13th highest nationally)
  • Some 32.4% of York’s population held qualifications at level 4 and above (Source: City of York Council from census 2011)

York is a city steeped in history.

In the year 71, it is reported that York was founded by the Roman Ninth Legion. ­The city has been through many changes with the Roman and Anglo Saxon periods, even the Vikings invaded, then there were the Normans, the Medieval era as well as the Tudor and Stuart periods.

Wind forward to the 1700s and it is the city that highwayman Dick Turpin was convicted of horse stealing in and hanged.

It is this history that has made York such a draw for tourists. According to Visit York, using figures from 2015, the city welcomes 6.9bn visitors a year, who spend £564m and support 19,000 jobs. Of the visitors to the city, 231,000 are overseas visitors with the majority being from the US, China and Australia.

Let’s not forget that York also boasts a university – meaning there are rafts of students in the city, York Minster, the River Ouse and a famous racecourse that brings in more visitors.

Done deals

The Black Horse, Seaton Ross, East Yorkshire
Black Horse

Price: £350,000

Tenure: Freehold

Turnover: Closed

Agent: Davey Co 0333 200 8788

This freehouse and restaurant has a lounge bar, village/public bar and function room in all, accommodating around 100 customers. The site is set in about one acre of land with garden trading areas and car parking, also providing potential for camping and leisure facilities. There is also three bedroom owner’s accommodation on the first floor and a detached two bedroom holiday cottage. The business is not currently trading.

The Hollybush Inn, Denford, Staffordshire

Price: £145,000

Tenure: Leasehold

Turnover: £70,000 per annum

Landlord: Thwaites

Wet:dry split: 55:45

Agent: Guy Simmonds 01332 865112

This pub is a converted old flour mill under a pitched and tiled apex roof. It has a canal lounge, bar area, lounge/ bar and a back room. There is also a commercial catering kitchen and ground floor cellar. The owner’s accommodation has two bedrooms. Located on the first floor are four double letting rooms with private access and shared bathroom.

Strong representation

Combine that with the population in the city, which was 198,051 with 83,552 households at the 2011 Census and there is a strong trading environment for the pub sector. Operators such as Black Sheep, Camerons and ­Thwaites are all represented in the city along with many leased pubcos and corporate operators.

And there has been growth for licensed operators. According to the latest Government licensing statistics, the number of premises licences in the region has been increasing. In 2013, there were 719 premises selling alcohol in the city, which grew to 785 in 2018.

According to the British Beer & Pub Association, 194 of these are pubs in the York City Council area that employ 5,493 people either directly or indirectly.

According to Barry Crux at Barry Crux & Company, York has been bucking the national trend. He says: “In the past 10 years there has been an explosion in the number of licensed premises that have shops.”

Most, he says, are run by private individuals with many devoting the premises to craft beer.

The city has also got a large number of traditional public houses and the market for this has remained “fairly consistent” over the past 20 years with very few pub closures.

“­The pubs market in York is very healthy and there is a lot of competition but they all seem to survive and thrive,” he says.

He puts some of this good trading down to the strong tourism that has seen many pubs adapt by offering good catering facilities.

“York has a very significant tourism industry. About 20% of the economy revolves around tourism, which is very significant,” he says.

Over the past 10 years, he says, this has meant a surge in the number of hotels in the city from major budget players, such as Travelodge.

“­That has had two effects. It has put a lot of small guesthouses out of business and some of the smaller hotels that have gone by the wayside have been transferred into residential,” he says.

While there is a significant trade in tourism, there are increasing numbers of local people living close to the city.

York (4)

New living quarters

According to Crux, there has been an acceleration in new-build apartments on the periphery of the centre as well as student accommodation.

“­The effect has been it has seen an increase in the number of people that live within a quarter of a mile of the city centre, which adds to the number of potential customers,” Crux says.

However, despite the buoyant pubs market, York will be facing some major challenges moving forward because there is a strong resistance to granting more alcohol licences.

“I see likely more demand for more operators to get new licensed premises and, if there is going to be a restriction on licences granted, it can only be that these people will have to buy out other businesses,” he said.

Tom Cunningham, licensed leisure director for the north at Savills, agrees the city is trading strongly with a good mix of corporate and independents.

He says: “York, as a centre generally, is popular because it is a medieval walled city and you tend to find that operators want to be inside the city walls.”

He says the strength of the traditional pub is boosted by the tourism and history of the city, as visitors want to have their experience of an English pub. But the customer base is broader than that and it is this variety of customers that has attracted many operators to the city.

York (6)

Varied customer base

“Thwaites executive chairman Rick Bailey said: “York is a great city – not only does it have a thriving local market but it is also a busy tourist destination.

“­The diverse range of our properties in York demonstrates how wide and varied the customer base is – from the Stone Roses bar through to the Judge’s Lodging. It is one of the reasons we have invested so much in the city over the past ‑ five years, including the acquisition of Middletons Hotel.”

Star Pubs & Bars boasts 22 pubs in the city – 20 of which have been acquired from Punch. Star Pubs & Bars regional operations director for the north-east Gary Corney says: “In addition to a healthy tourist market and two universities, there are enough people living and working in and around York to sustain its many pubs of which there is one for every day of the year.

“Its good transportation links to Harrogate, Beverley and beyond, and its attractive nearby villages make it a great place to have a pub. In addition to its historic character, York is becoming more vibrant, like Leeds.

“­The York pub market is buoyant and diverse. If a pub comes up to lease within – five miles of York, there are double-figure applicants because demand exceeds supply and the market is strong.”

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

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