Property round-up

Pubco projects top £10m, Murdoch money to revive Camden stalwart, Top 50 Gastropub on the market

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Property moves: which sites have been reopened, revamped or changed hands in the past week?
Property moves: which sites have been reopened, revamped or changed hands in the past week?

Related tags Property Wetherspoon Finance Pubco + head office Robinsons Hall & woodhouse London Gastro pubs

Operators including JD Wetherspoon, Robinsons and Hall & Woodhouse all provided updates on seven-figure pub projects, while Elisabeth Murdoch is reportedly looking to restore Koko in Camden.

Robinsons sinks seven figures into Lake District pub

Stockport-based brewer and pub operator Robinsons has invested £1m in a complete internal and external transformation of the Pooley Bridge Inn near Ullswater in Cumbria.  

The reopening – one of the largest investments in Robinsons’ tenanted pub estate – was initially planned for late March but had to be postponed due to Covid-19 lockdown.

“We absolutely love the new Pooley Bridge Inn and so do our customers,” Kyle McGregor, operations director at the Pooley Bridge, said. 

“The place looks stunning and after months of worry and the disappointment of missing out on our original opening day in March, trade has taken off like a rocket. 

“August sales were up by 70% on last year, boasting the great beer sales in Robinsons pub estate as a whole.

“We’ve recruited a fantastic team and we feel the whole guest experience from top to bottom is now on a completely new level. 

“Our Covid friendly spacing gives us 397 covers inside and out, meaning there’s lots of space for everyone to enjoy. 

“We also scored over 90% guest satisfaction for hygiene practices, Covid safety measures and cleanliness, highlighting the safety of our pub during this difficult time.”


Top 50 Gastropub mainstay on the market for £1.5m 

A regular inclusion in the annual Top 50 Gastropubs list – winner of the Newcomer of the Year award in 2018 before climbing onto the list at number 48 in 2019 and jumping 12 places to 36 in 2020 – the Oxford Blue in Windsor, Berkshire, is available off a guide price of £1.5m.

“We expect the property to appeal to a wide range of buyers including those looking to purchase a single asset as well as those looking to expand their current portfolio,” Ed Bellfield, regional director at Christie & Co who is handling the sale explained. 

“There is significant scope for an experienced owner/operator to benefit from the recent investment in the site and from its unique location close to Windsor and Runnymede."

The Oxford Blue dates back to 1829 when it was opened by Waterloo veteran, Tom Evans of The Royal Horse Guards, also known as ‘The Oxford Blues’.

Oxford blue

Country Pub Group founder acquires site from administration

Th founder of the Somerset-based Country Pub Group, Matthew Lowe, has bought back one of the operator’s four sites after the business was placed into administration in July.

Steven Parker and Trevor Binyon, of Opus Restructuring were appointed joint administrators of the Group, which operated Somerset sites the Temple Inn in Temple Cloud, the Battleaxes in Wraxall and the Mendip Inn in Shepton Mallet as well as the Castle Inn in Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire.

While Lowe has purchased the Mendip for a total consideration of £30,000, it is unclear if he plans to move for the remaining trio of sites.

According to reports in Wiltshire Times​, there has been speculation that a brewing company is interested in acquiring the Castle Inn.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Country Pub Group ceased trading and closed its premises in March. While it was able to utilise the Government’s furlough scheme and to obtain a £50,000 grant, the Group was turned down for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan of £212,000.


Murdoch money to revive revered London night spot 

Billionaire Elisabeth Murdoch is to bankroll the restoration of the historic London music venue Koko in Camden after it was badly damaged by fire in January while closed for refurbishment, according to reports in The Telegraph​. 

The venue began life as the Camden Theatre in 1900 before hosting big names including Madonna, Prince, The Rolling Stones and Coldplay.

The daughter of Rupert Murdoch and former head of Shine UK, the production company behind Masterchef and Broadchurch, is said to be interested in the venue as part of an attempt to grow her own creative empire, according to The Telegraph​. 

According to Forbes, the Murdoch family's collective fortune is in the region of $16.9bn. 

Following Disney's $71bn purchase of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox assets, $12bn in proceeds were distributed among his six children.


JDW to pump £6.6m into two more Yorkshire pubs

Pub giant JD Wetherspoon (JDW) has unveiled plans to pump a combined £6.6m​ into a pair of pubs in Yorkshire during the coming weeks – a move expected to create more than 125 new jobs.

Work will start on its new Northallerton site on 28 September ahead of an unveiling earmarked for March 2021, while JDW plans to break ground on a new venue in Headingley, Leeds, on 5 October before a grand opening in April 2021.

 “We are delighted that development work is due to begin soon,” Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said.

“We believe both pubs will be assets to their respective areas and hopefully act as a catalyst for further investment.

“We are confident that both pubs will appeal to a wide range of people.”

News of JDW’s latest seven-figure investment in Yorkshire pubs comes after the Tim Martin-owned operator opened the £2.6m Charles Henry Roe​ in Leeds' Cross Gates suburb in June.

Hall & Woodhouse to open revamped £4m pub 

The Holly Blue near Beggarwood in Hampshire will reopen on 16 September following a £4m transformation by Dorset-based operator Hall & Woodhouse. 

"We are so excited to be finally opening our doors to each and every one of you who have been amazingly patient and supportive to us,” general manager Andy Taylor, told Basingstoke Gazette​. 

"Whilst this is great news we do have to put team and guest safety up there during this tough time so could I please recommend that you reserve drinks and food tables prior to your arrival to avoid disappointment." 

Hall and Woodhouse acquired the site last year, but construction work was temporarily put on hold during lockdown.


Stoke-on-Trent pub to be demolished just 18 months after reopening 

A local property developer has filed plans to bulldoze the Joker pub in Blurton, Staffordshire, and replace it with eight townhouses, according to Stoke Sentinel​ reports.

The announcement comes just 18 months after the pub reopened under brothers Dean and Daniel Lovatt.

However, according to Corin Brown, chair of Potteries Camra, while the Joker had been given a facelift after being taken on by the Lovatt brothers in March 2019, the estate pub had closed its doors.

A design and access statement submitted to Stoke-on-Trent City Council stated: “The public house like many others has over recent years struggled to maintain its financial viability despite a number of different landlords and managers.

“The site has also a history of anti-social behaviour which has also had a negative impact on the surrounding residential properties.”

19th century Rhondda Valley pub sold 

Specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co, has announced the sale of Llwyncelyn Hotel in Porth in Rhondda Cynon Taff, Wales, off an asking price of £249,000.

The venue is a large, late 19th​ century, purpose-built public house and hotel found in a three-storey building.

The business was purchased by its previous owner, Mike Broadway, in 2012, however he decided to sell as part of a re-structure of his investment portfolio.

The hotel has been sold to Daniel Cox, who plans to run the business as a hands-on owner. “We plan to refurbish the bar and restaurant areas and will be offering new menus and a selection of different beers,” he explained.

Nicholas Calfe, director of pubs at Christie & Co, who handled the sale, added: “The sale of the Llwyncelyn demonstrates that, despite an uncertain future for hospitality businesses, there is still an appetite for realistically priced freehold pubs that offer potential for growth and development.”


315 pubs lost for good so far in 2020

As exclusively reported by The Morning Advertiser​, more than 300 pubs have been permanently closed​, set to be demolished or converted for other uses according to figures for the 34 weeks and six days to 1 September 2020.

Data from real estate adviser Altus Group found at the beginning of September, the overall number of pubs in England and Wales, including those vacant and to let, was 40,748 – down 315 this year so far, with 87 of those closing during the past two months.

In 2019, 473 pubs were demolished and or converted into other types of building.

What’s more, CGA’s Outlet Index found that 610 pubs have closed since lockdown, though this figure includes pubs that have closed while the pub company seeks a new tenant or lessee.

CGA and AlixPartner’s Market Recovery Monitor also revealed that almost a quarter (23.7%) of licensed premises were still to reopen at the end of August, with London particularly slow to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

While this represents an increase from the end of July when 38.3% of licensed venues had yet to reopen, it means that almost 27,000 remain shut.

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