Property round-up

Former Little Chef owner weighs up Stonegate/Ei sites, Mark Hix opens pub

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 Pubco + head office Finance Tenanted + leased

In addition to acquisitions by The Inn Collection Group, Black Country Ales and Coastal & Country in the past week, there's news of interest in a 42 pub package and a celebrity chef entering the pub game.

Former owner of Little Chef owner eyes Stonegate/Ei pub package

According to reports in The Telegraph​, the former owner of Little Chef is weighing up a move for 42 pubs put on the market following Stonegate’s £3bn takeover of Ei Group.

The deal, which will see Stonegate become the UK’s largest pub operator, was rubber stamped by the Competition and Markets Authority on the condition that 42 pubs in areas where it may form a monopoly were sold.  

While buy-out fund RCapital is among those interested in acquiring the 10 pubs owned by Stonegate and 32 Ei sites, the venues have reportedly attracted interest from real estate company Aprirose and Admiral Taverns.

The deal would see RCapital return to the hospitality sector for the first time since it led a high-profile transformation of roadside diner Little Chef in tandem with Heston Blumenthal before selling the chain to Kout Food Group in 2013 for £15m – six years after buying it out of administration for £9m. 


Celebrity chef Mark Hix to open first pub

Chef Mark Hix has announced that he is to open his first pub, the Grade II-listed 16th​ century pub Fox Inn in Corscombe, Dorset, when England’s second national lockdown is lifted.

The pub, located in an area of outstanding natural beauty and within an hour of Hix’s seafood restaurant in Lyme Regis, was bought by local residents Eva and the late Ray Harvey in 2012 to save it from closure and being redeveloped as housing.

“The owners of the pub have been family friends for many years,” he said. “When they offered me the lease, I thought it could be a great opportunity, despite these uncertain times that we are in.  

“It will be my first pub so it’s an exciting new project for me in the countryside where I’ll be serving local meat and game along with some British pub classics, a contrast to the fish and seafood offering in Lyme. 

“With all the challenges that we are facing now, it’s great to be able to focus on an exciting new project. It’s important to me that I keep the Fox as a traditional local pub with great food and drink. 

“Since lockdown in spring, the pub has only been open three days a week, so I am looking forward to opening six days a week for the locals and visitors to the area to enjoy once more.” 

Former police station becomes 18th​ Inn Collection Group site  

North east-based pub operator The Inn Collection Group has unveiled plans to transform the former police station in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, into a pub with rooms – creating up to 50 jobs in the process.

The deal, which was for an undisclosed sum, grows the group’s portfolio to 18 sites, is its fourth Yorkshire location – joining the King’s Head Inn at Newton-under-Roseberry, the Black Swan at Helmsley and the Stables at Whitby – and is its seventh addition of the year. 

The award-winning pubco acquired the site on 30 November, where it will embark on a multi-million-pound project to transform the Grade II listed building into a 32-bedroom inn and reopen in autumn 2021. 

The building, which has remained vacant since North Yorkshire police services were relocated to new headquarters, currently contains original features including a custody suite complete with cells and reception desk.  

“We are delighted to have completed on the police station in Northallerton, it’s a site we have been working together with the vendors and our design partners on for a considerable period of time,” managing director for The Inn Collection Group, Sean Donkin, said. 

“We are excited to be broadening our customer base and presence here in Yorkshire with the addition of a Northallerton location to our group.

“It is a great country town that is full of character with good access and visitation, while the venue itself is superbly located.

“We have a proven track record for repurposing and enhancing historic buildings,” he continued.  

“We’re looking forward to applying that here and creating an exciting new venue in the heart of Northallerton and being a part of the community, providing year-round food, drink and accommodation services and, of course, employment opportunities at a critical time.” 


Black Country Ales adds 40th​ pub 

Dudley-based brewer and pub operator Black Country Ales has acquired the Railway Tavern in Newport, Shropshire – growing its estate to 40 pubs. 

The new venue will close for a five-figure refurbishment early in 2021 before reopening. 

“It will be a pub with no gimmicks – just good beer and a good choice of beer,” managing director Angus McMeeking told the Express & Star.

Black Country Ales’ 38th site – the 200-year-old Starving Rascal, in Amblecote Stourbridge – is also on course to open on 17 December – subject to local Covid-19 restrictions – following a revamp. 

What’s more, the operator’s 39th pub – the Harp Hotel, in Albrighton – is having finishing touches applied before it reopens in the new year following its purchase from Hopback Brewery. 

Coastal & Country acquires North York Moors National Park pub 

Pub operator Coastal & Country Inns is on the cusp of reopening the Owl at Hawnby, near Helmsley, in the North York Moors National Park following a £650,000 investment.

The site, which had been closed for two years, will welcome custom subject to Covid-19 restrictions from 3 December off the back of a major overhaul to transform it into a pub-restaurant with nine rooms to let.  

Though the Owl will remain part of Mexborough Estates, a long-term leasehold has been bought by Coastal and Country Inns. 

“This is a tremendous opportunity for us – and the perfect fit for our operation,” Coastal and Country Inns managing director Chrish Hannon said. “It will be the jewel in our crown. 

“Our aim, as a company, is to create a portfolio of attractive inns of which we can be very proud. We want our inns to be individual, friendly, accessible and tasteful, a far cry from the big pub chains.” 

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