Regional report

Why owning a pub in Brighton rocks

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Brighton rocks: as one of the trendiest cities on the UK coast, Brighton & Hove is more than just a bastion of diversity
Brighton rocks: as one of the trendiest cities on the UK coast, Brighton & Hove is more than just a bastion of diversity

Related tags: Property

Brighton and Hove has been known as a diverse and fun seaside city for many years and it also boasts a young population that supports a varied licensed trade

Brighton and Hove in numbers

  • There are 249 pubs in the local authority area of Brighton and Hove that employ 5,304 people. (Source: British Beer & Pub Association)
  • The population of Brighton and Hove was 273,369 and is made up of approximately 50% females and 50% males
  • The average age of people in Brighton and Hove is 37, while the median age is lower at 35
  • 81.1% of people living in Brighton and Hove were born in England. Other countries of birth for residents include: 1.6% Scotland, 1.1% Wales, 1% Ireland, 0.7% North Africa, 0.6% India, 0.5% each from China, South Africa, Northern Ireland and the US

(Source: england/south-east/brighton-and-hove)

As one of the most vibrant seaside cities in the country, Brighton and Hove has some of the most diverse leisure venues and nightlife in the country.

­There is plenty on offer, such as nightclubs on the seafront, vegetarian pubs, high street operations and music venues. In fact, almost everyone from families to couples to partygoers to music lovers have something for them in the city.

Brighton is well known for its nightlife and its diversity with both the LGBTQ+ and straight communities mixing right across the city.

Brighton reportedly started its life as a Saxon village, which developed into an area of both fishing and farming. By the 16th century Brighthelmston’, as it was called, was a booming fishing village but, by the 18th century, the decline of the fishing industry saw many leave the town.

But the area saw a resurgence of visitors following the lead of the Royal family, who believed that seawater was therapeutic. ­There are now the famous sites such as the Brighton Pier and the Brighton Pavilion, which help to boost tourism; just under 11m people visited Brighton and Hove in 2017 (Tourism South East).

On the market

The Village House Hotel, Findon, West Sussex

On the market (1)

Price: £189,950

Tenure: Leasehold

Turnover: £850,000 (inc VAT).

Landlord: Enterprise Inns

Rent: £59,000

Wet:dry:accom split: 45:35:20

Agent: Guy Simmonds 01332 865112

This 16th century inn has a public bar (80 covers), restaurant (30c) and has eight letting bedrooms. There is a commercial catering kitchen. Owner’s accommodation has one bedroom, lounge, kitchen and bathroom. There is also a beer garden and car park.


The Blue Man, Brighton, East Sussex

The blue man

Price: Leasehold

Tenure: £45,000

Turnover: £8,000 a week

Rent: £21,000

Landlord: Private

Agent: Fleurets 01273 429 500

This Grade II-listed three-storey terraced property has a basement kitchen, ground and first-floor trading areas, second floor toilets, office and storage. There is a restaurant on the ground floor, bar server and also a first-floor dining room.


The Old Barn, Felpham, West Sussex

On the market

Price: £460,000

Tenure: Freehold

Turnover: £210,000 (inc VAT)

Wet:dry split: 100:0

Landlord: Private

Agent: Guy Simmonds 01332 865112

This thatched inn features a public bar (20 covers) and lounge bar (50c). There is also a commercial catering kitchen and the owner’s accommodation has five bedrooms, lounge, kitchen, bathroom and a shower room. There is a paved patio (80c) and car park.

And the number of people living in the area continues to grow with estimates putting the population in 2019 at close to 280,000.

The towns of Brighton and Hove formed a unitary authority in 1997 and by 2001 were granted city status.

And, as well as being famous as a holiday resort, the city is also famous for some other interesting facts. It was the place that ABBA won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo in 1974 and it was the first place in Britain to open a naturist beach in 1979.


It also boasts the only Green Party MP in the UK with Caroline Lucas for the Brighton Pavilion constituency.

According to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), there are now 249 pubs in the local authority area of Brighton and Hove that employ 5,304 people.

Interestingly, the city has seen an overall drop in the number of licensed premises in recent years. ­The latest statistics from the Government show that Brighton & Hove had more than 1,400 licensed premises selling alcohol in 2012 while this dropped to 1,098 by March 2018.

­This could be down to the implementation of the controversial cumulative impact zone (CIZ), which was introduced in 2008 and later extended. ­ is means that there is no presumption on the granting of new alcohol licences.

The area has an abundance of interesting and innovative licensed premises. Operators from Laine Pub Company to Indigo are performing well while the area boasts a number of innovative independent operators.

­The strength of the market was clear to see in 2018 when Vine Acquisitions Limited, backed by Patron Capital and May Capital, acquired The Laine Pub Company, the largest operator of pubs in Brighton.

But it is not just the larger pubcos that are seeing the potential of the Brighton and Hove area. Brewer and pub operator Brighton Bier, has three pubs in the city and a brewery. Brighton Bier director Stephen Whitehurst says there have been many changes in Brighton during the past few years.

“When we began brewing in 2012 there was no Brighton brewing ‘scene’. We were literally the only brewery in Brighton. Every other brewery had either shut down or moved out of town,” he says.

“It seems crazy looking back but our current brewery was the first commercial scale production brewery in the city since the 1970s.”

­The brewery supplies the local area with its range of beers and has three of its own pubs: Brighton Bierhaus, Freehaus and Haus on the Hill.

“Brighton has changed a lot in recent years and definitely for the better. Historically, most of the bars here have been owned by big pub companies with centralised purchasing policies and little interest in craft beer or supporting local breweries,” Whitehouse says.

“When we began brewing in 2012, there were realistically a small handful of pubs that could even buy our beers. Thankfully, there are now a lot more independently owned and operated pubs in the city.”

Pat Walker, director at property valuer AW Gore, agrees Brighton is a good place to trade for operators, with smaller pubcos and independents trading strongly.

Despite the CIZ, some smaller operators have managed to open sites with brewpubs, microbreweries and beer shops, he reveals. And with the drop in the number of alcohol licences, the market in Brighton for sites remains competitive.

Walker says leaseholds are still selling at a premium with freehold and free-of-tie leases almost impossible to purchase.

“It is still busy and there are a lot of pubs that have reverted back as managed houses as pubcos such as Enterprise have taken them back,” he reveals.

Brighton (2)

Fleurets associate Kate Dowd agrees Brighton and Hove represents good trading for operators.

“Brighton’s leisure scene has really stood the test of time. I attribute its resilience to its everchanging and adapting nature,” she says.

And this has inevitably had a knock-on e­ffect on the property market in the area. She says that due to the nature of Brighton, many pub sales tend to be brokered o­ff-market.

“Brighton sites trade well and, therefore, demand for Brighton property is strong,” she says. “Business offerings that are unique tend to thrive best in Brighton because consumers seek out the hidden gems. Therefore, Brighton is a city where being on the ‘high street pitch’ isn’t as imperative, secondary locations create tucked away, destination operations.

Done deals

The Gate, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire

DD The Gate

Price: £85,000

Tenure: Leasehold

Turnover: £300,000-plus (inc VAT)

Wet:dry split: 80:20

Rent: £37,500

Landlord: Enterprise Inns

Agent: Guy Simmonds 01332 865112

This traditional 19th century inn is set in the beautiful county of Hertfordshire. It was o­ffered for sale for the first time in 30 years and after serious interest from several prospective purchasers a sale was agreed to Anthony Kavanaugh, who is looking to drive forward the existing food o­ffering. The lease has 17 years remaining.

The Wheatsheaf Inn, Maidstone, Kent

DD Wheatsheaf

Price: £550,000

Tenure: Freehold

Turnover: £200,000

Wet:dry split: 90:10

Agent: Davey Co 0333 200 8788

This pub is sited in a busy residential location. The freehouse has a traditional style through the lounge bar, dining facility and an outside trading terrace. There is owner’s accommodation on the first and second floors with six rooms and two bathrooms. The business trades limited hours with 90%-plus derived from wet sales providing potential to develop the trade.

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

Related topics: Property law

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