The operator of 1,300 pubs across the UK and Big Smoke will embark on a strategic partnership off the back of the longstanding relationship the beer maker’s founders James Morgan and Richard Craig have with Punch’s senior leadership team.
Seeking to expand a then four-strong stable, Big Smoke poured £210,000 into Punch’s Prince of Wales Townhouse in Hammersmith, west London, in tandem with the pub operator before reopening in October 2020 to grow its estate to five sites.
This was followed by a second joint project to revamp the White Horse in Welwyn, Hertfordshire, to the tune of £110,000 before resuming trade in April 2021.
Currently, Surrey-based Big Smoke operates seven sites – having recently launched Big Smoke Taphouse and Kitchen at Heathrow Terminal Two in tandem with Airport Retail Enterprises – as well as a gin distillery and a brewery.
Founded in 2014 and voted Greater London’s Best New Brewer at RateBeer Best Awards a year later, Big Smoke Brew Co relocated to a 5,000sq ft premises in Esher, Surrey, in April 2019.
Speaking to The Morning Advertiser a month later, Big Smoke co-founder Richard Craig revealed that he harboured ambitions to establish a nationwide presence for the beer maker and burgeoning pub operator.
“We’re always on the lookout for more pubs and, if the opportunities are there, we're definitely going to take them,” he explained. “We definitely see owning and adding more pubs to our portfolio as something we’re going to push for.”
Discussing the announcement of the joint venture with Punch, Craig described the pairing as a “natural fit”.
“Our fantastic working relationship and aligned values will enable us to grow the Big Smoke pub portfolio, bringing everything we love about modern beer and British pubs to the people of the southeast,” he said.
‘Just the beginning’
The next stage of the joint venture will see investment pumped into two new venues, north London pub the Old Wheatsheaf in Enfield and the White Lion in St Albans, Hertfordshire.
“Big Smoke is a young, exciting and ambitious brewery and pub company who we’re really proud to have partnered with,” Punch’s managing director, Andy Spencer, said.
“We are off to a fantastic start investing in and relaunching both the Prince of Wales Townhouse and the White Horse. Both pubs offer a warm welcome into a vibrant, comfortable and safe space for guests to enjoy a fantastic range of independently sourced beers, freshly prepared food and outstanding service all year round.
“This is just the beginning,” he added. “We have exciting plans on the horizon and look forward to working with the Big Smoke team for many years to come.”
The news comes amid a flurry of pub property activity since the start of the year, with new firms RedCat, Nightcap, and Valiant Pub Company in the market for pub packages, London-based operator Young's confirming that it has appointed Savills to handle the sale of its tenanted business, and the founders of ETM seeking funds for new venture, Maven Leisure.