The Morning Advertiser (MA) understands a number of potential buyers have expressed interest in acquiring Rileys, which prior to the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent enforced closure of pubs, bars and clubs on 20 March, recorded eight months of like-for-like growth.
While four of its 21 venues have already closed as a result of entering administration, its remaining 17 sites are expected to reopen once a buyer is found – though further closures haven’t been ruled out.
It is believed the sports bar chain was exploring options to close a number of underperforming sites prior to the coronavirus pandemic, which sped up its disposal plans.
Rileys had previously outlined plans to reopen a handful of venues during August after Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that pubs could resume trading from 4 July.
A statement from Rileys following the closure of sites in Grays in Essex, Sheffield, Wolverhampton, and Worcester, thanked customers and outlined aspirations for the business to survive and thrive post-pandemic.
"It is with great sadness that yesterday (Thursday 16 July) we had to make the very difficult decision to permanently close our sites in Grays, Wolverhampton, Worcester and Sheffield,” the company’s statement explained.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has had a far-reaching effect on the business and the wider hospitality industry.
"As such we have re-evaluated the business to ensure that we have a strong proposition to take forward into the post coronavirus world.
"We cannot thank our customers enough for their loyalty over the years.
"We will miss you all greatly but your memberships will still be valid at your closest Rileys when we reopen."
The Milton Keynes-based sports bar chain, which offers snooker, pool, darts and table tennis facilities alongside live sport, food and drink, employed 208 staff prior to the aforementioned closures and subsequent 44 redundancies.
Partners at specialist business advisory firm FRP, Philip Watkins and Geoff Rowley, have been appointed as joint administrators to Rileys Sports Bars (2014) Ltd and will now seek a buyer for the business and to save the remaining 164 jobs.
"Rileys is a well-known brand with a popular proposition that has become well-established in towns and cities across the country,” Watkins said.
"As we market the business for sale, we expect there to be interest from prospective buyers who will take the sites forward and welcome back customers as the UK leisure market opens back up."
Rileys becomes the latest hospitality business to fall into financial difficulty amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
As previously reported by MA, four-site operator 16 Hospitality appointed insolvency experts after falling into administration on 9 April. The operator was later acquired by Flock Inns – a new venture from the Timpson family – for an undisclosed sum.
What’s more, the Lancashire-based operator of 10 gastropubs across the north west, Seafood Pub Company, filed for administration in June.
OakNorth Bank’s senior debt finance director Mohith Sondhi previously told MA that he believes restored consumer confidence will be the trigger for investors to return to the hospitality sector.
“If people see others regularly go out and socialise again and being very comfortable with that, and then money starting to flow back into the sector and people say ‘we've got over lockdown, we're comfortable with it, it's the new normal’, you'll naturally see investment come back in,” he explained.