Regional Report

What makes Leeds a good place to own a pub?

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Leeding the way: a great heritage, beautiful buildings and an amazing beer culture makes Leeds a place to visit and invest in
Leeding the way: a great heritage, beautiful buildings and an amazing beer culture makes Leeds a place to visit and invest in

Related tags: Property

Often described as the ‘unofficial capital of Yorkshire’, the UK’s third largest city is a northern powerhouse with a thriving economy.

Leeds lore

  • Leeds is home to the country’s most northerly commercial vineyard – Leventhorpe Vineyard in Woodlesford.
  • Former Leeds MP Denis Healey is the only Chancellor of the Exchequer to have appeared on The Morecambe and Wise Show​.
  • ­Leeds City Centre has 3.5million sq ft of retail floorspace, five miles of shopping streets and one of the country’s largest pedestrianised shopping areas. (Source: Yorkshire Evening Post)
  • ­The census of 2011 revealed the population of Leeds to be 751,485, made up of approximately 51% females and 49% males. 18.9% of them are from a minority ethnic background and 12.6% were born outside the UK.
  • ­The number of premises licences selling alcohol in Leeds increased from 1,902 in March 2012 to 2,224 in March 2018. (Source: Alcohol and late-night refreshment licensing, England and Wales, 31 March 2018)

Leeds started out as a Saxon village and by the time of the Domesday Book (1086), reportedly had a population of around 200 people. By the 17th century, the city it had grown into was booming thanks to a thriving woollen industry, and it continued to expand during the industrial revolution.

According to Leeds City Council, it is now the third largest city in the UK with an estimated population of 789,194 in 2018. Of those, 49% were males and 51% females. Its economy boasts a range of ­financial services, legal, manufacturing, health and retail and it has good road, rail and air links. Trinity Leeds, the £350m retail development, is a major shopping destination and, like most major cities, Leeds has a university and football team.

Leeds (2)

Attracting new operators

On the market

East of Arcadia, Meanwood

East of Arcadia

Price: £95,000+VAT

Tenure: Leasehold

Rent: £55,000

Turnover: £471,000 net of VAT

Wet:dry split: 80:20

Agent: Fleurets 0113 234 0304

Situated in a prominent corner position in the centre of Meanwood, approximately three miles north-west of the city centre, the site was fully fitted out from a shell condition in 2010. The business has traded successfully as a modern bar, with a strong focus on real ale and good quality bar food.

The Three Horseshoes, Oulton

Three Horseshoes

Price: Offers over £50,000

Tenure: Leasehold

Rent: £60,000

Turnover: £600,000 net

Wet:dry split: 40:60

Agent: Davey Co 0333 200 8788

This pub has a traditional style and is heavily beamed through the trading areas. It is comfortably furnished, and has a lounge bar, lounge dining room and a restaurant. There is a well-equipped commercial catering kitchen facility and customer car park.

Lavanta Meze Bar & Grill, Otley Road


Price: £118,000

Tenure: Leasehold

Rent: £14,300

Turnover: £308,632

Agent: Christie & Co 0113 892727

The property is situated in an affluent area in north Leeds. As well as desirable residential properties, there are several key businesses in the area which drive custom, including Leeds Beckett University Headingley Campus, Weetwood Sports Park and the University of Leeds.

There are 486 pubs, which offer employment to 12,207 people, in the Leeds local authority area (British Beer & Pub Association). But there is a much wider leisure market.

It is a city that is attracting new operators, with pub and bar brands such as The Escapologist and Head of Steam and casual dining operators such as Rosa’s Thai Cafe and Smashburger opening new sites. And it boasts both big names and small independents.


According to Arc Inspirations, Leeds is ‘flying’. CEO and founder Martin Wolstencroft says, after 20 years in the city, he sees Leeds as Arc Inspirations’ ‘patch’, opening its first site in Headingly in 1999.

“The food and drink scene is flying and well on its way to establishing itself as a genuine food and drink destination,” he argues.

“It has a thriving mixture of local independents and multi-site operators that began life in the city, along with growing interest from national operators that started life in Manchester or London.”

Not to be underestimated

Wolstencroft says that while there has always been a sentiment that London is home to the hottest food and drink scene, Leeds should not be underestimated.

“There are old-school pubs that have been institutions in the city for generations, which ooze with heart and soul and offer fantastic craft beer and local cask ale. There are also many hidden gems in the form of cocktail bars that house world class bartenders and serve quality mixed drinks,” he adds.

“This has always been the lifeblood of the city’s thriving pub and bar scene and what has led to increased attention from bigger brands in the city.”

The opening in 2013 of the shopping centre area of Trinity Leeds, he says, signalled the beginning of an influx of national operators into the local market.

But Wolstencroft adds that Arc Inspirations has remained in its traditional locations, with Manahatta on Greek Street, BOX on In­ Infirmary Street and Banyan at City Square.

“Due to our ‘cluster’ strategy, these locations are in relatively close proximity. However, we are able to closely manage the venues without them cannibalising each other’s revenue,” he says.

“This is a result of the strength of our brands and the work we put into understanding our customer base, but it also speaks to the strength of the market in Leeds currently.”

The strength of the market has also attracted Thornbridge & Co, the joint venture between Thornbridge Brewery and craft beer wholesaler Pivovar which recently signed for a new site in Leeds as part of its rollout plans.

This follows the success of its ­first site in York called the Market Cat and its second site in Birmingham due to open this month.


Legal and financial centre

Simon Webster and Jamie Hawksworth, joint directors and owners of Thornbridge & Co, say that the company was attracted to the fact Leeds is the largest legal and financial centre in the UK outside of London. And it’s a growing city.

“The city’s economy grew by 34% during the past decade. Over the next ten years, the economy is forecast to grow by 21%,” they said.

Thornbridge & Co identi­fied Boar Lane as a prime location for its latest site given its proximity to the mainline rail station, pedestrian throughput to the shopping district (including Trinity Leeds) while being surrounded by offices within the business district.

“Leeds has a fabulous beer scene in which Thornbridge Brewery has been involved for many years, more recently being headline sponsor of the prestigious Leeds International Beer Festival,” they said.

“Our offering isn’t restricted to beers, since our buyers work closely with our wine and spirits merchants in order to forge our extensive drinks menu.

“This diversity attracts clientele who wish to be impressed and satis­fied beyond the usual bland high street offering. There is no place for being average within Leeds as the bar is already set high and the customer base is intelligent and affluent.”

Leeds (3)

Fleurets director Simon Hall agrees and says that Leeds city centre is seen as a “real flagship” for the whole Yorkshire area. This has meant that there is a strong demand for leasehold sites.

“There is big investment, there are big players, investors, developers and operators, all fighting for the best sites,” he says.

And the reason is that the city centre trade is booming with some “eye-watering” numbers coming through.

“To get a great site in a city like Leeds is a licence to print money if you get the operation right,” he claims.

The result is some of the more independent operators are looking further a­field at secondary centres that are still trading well.

Done deals

The Foresters, Yoxall, Staffordshire


Price: £60,000

Tenure: Free-of-tie lease

Rent: £25,000

Turnover: £500,000 (inc VAT)

Wet:dry split: 25:75

Agent: Guy Simmonds 01332 865112

Located in a large, pretty village, the property was refurbished to a high standard in 2018. There is an open plan trading area with a central bar (circa 60-plus covers), a fully equipped commercial catering kitchen and a below-ground beer cellar. The owner’s accommodation has private access and two double bedrooms. The pub was sold to local entrepreneur Pete Farrington.

Lighthouse Inn Walcott, Norfolk


Price: £35,000

Tenure: Free-of-tie lease

Rent: £55,000

Turnover: £600,000

Wet:dry split: 35:65

Agent: Everard Cole 01223 370055

Long-time publicans Christina and David Tilsed have bought the coastal pub in partnership with Christina’s sister Kim Holt and her partner Mary Ann Stuart in a new venture. The Lighthouse is a detached, predominantly two storey public house. The internal trading area is primarily open-plan with extensive bar and restaurant areas catered to by a large wooden servery.

Related topics: Property law

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