Is the glass half full for city centre pubs as footfall continues to rise?
By Paul Breen, director in the licensed leisure team at Savills
It’s been impossible over the past 20 months not to feel great sympathy with any owner of a licensed business. Whether you are a sole operator or one of the largest multiple groups, it’s been a challenging time across the board. As the various lockdowns were lifted it became clear those businesses that were in suburban and rural locations, with good external areas and with a bias towards food, were some of the quickest to begin to recover. Those that were in city centre locations have typically struggled to bounce back as quickly with some operators having to take the view that it simply didn’t make sense to reopen until restrictions were fully lifted and office workers and tourists were starting to return in large numbers.
The back-to-school feeling certainly came around in September and the data so far suggests footfall from office workers in city centres has increased. London underground reported its busiest morning since the start of the pandemic in September and data expert Springboard reported city centre footfall growth across the UK but figures remain below pre-pandemic levels. It does, though, beg the question of whether we will ever see things completely return to normal or if we have found a new way of working.
It seems premature to draw any meaningful conclusions but there are reasons for real optimism among city centre operators. Perhaps the best indicator of this is the strong performance of the majority of late-night businesses since restrictions were fully lifted. These operators have felt the very worst of things during the pandemic but the enthusiasm shown by customers to get back out to late-night bars and clubs is very encouraging, as is their willingness to spend at least as freely as they were in pre-Covid times.
But it’s not just nightclubs that are driving this footfall. We don’t all want to shop online, order our food for delivery or buy our drinks from the supermarket or convenience stores when we can go out and enjoy the experience far more in a pub, restaurant or nightclub. It is clear operators will probably need to work harder than ever to entice people to visit their venues rather than go home at the end of the working day. The very best operators will always find new ways to make that happen. This should ensure innovation will thrive and we don’t see the sudden surge in the closure of city centre businesses that many have been predicting.
Your Friendly Local pubco takes sixth site
Multiple pub operator Chris Windle of Your Friendly Local in Yorkshire has taken his sixth pub with Greene King Pub Partners.
The Three Horseshoes in Headingley has undergone a £150,000 joint investment converting the Otley Run venue into a music and sports pubs. Large screens have been introduced throughout and the décor celebrates the sporting history in the area. A large ceiling mural depicts Headingley Stadium and feature walls have artificial grass and football boot displays throughout.
Windle said: “I operate six pubs with Greene King and am looking to extend this to eight with them. Over the years we have built a great relationship based on mutual trust with close interaction at all levels. When the Three Horseshoes came on the market, I grabbed the opportunity to take it with them”.
Operations director for Greene King multiples division, Steve Look added: “Chris has been in this business for 42 years so he knows what he is doing. It’s great doing business with a professional and we are looking forward to seeing the Three Horseshoes go from strength to strength”.
The Your Friendly Local also operates the Droppingwell, Rotherham; the Liversedge in Liversedge; the Colin, Kimberworth; the Banner Cross in Sheffield; and the Cross Keys in York. Greene King Pub Partners operates 995 tenanted and leased pubs across the England, Wales and Scotland and has a plan of investments for the next year.
Coppa Club to open south-west London site next week
Coppa Club is set to open a site in Putney on Tuesday (2 November) with the intention of bringing a café culture experience to south-west London.
The café, bar, restaurant, lounge, terrace and private dining space is Coppa Club’s second London opening and the ninth overall following the successful openings in Clifton Village and Cobham earlier this year.
Situated on the river front, Coppa Club Putney will serve breakfast, brunch, dinner, after-work drinks and coffee from morning to night.
It will partner with coffee brand Grind at the site that will also host speaker events and supper clubs to bring locals “interesting and topical discussions straight to their doorstep”.
Coppa Club chief executive Yishay Malkov said: “We are thrilled to announce we will be opening Coppa Club Putney this autumn. For years, private members’ clubs have monopolised the market as spaces for people to stay all day, from working to relaxing, and this is something we are starting to change, offering a clubhouse feel without the fees.
“At Coppa Club, we pride ourselves in providing people with a home-from-home experience, where they can work, eat, drink, meet or relax – from first thing in the morning until late at night. We are looking forward to becoming part of the local community and providing something for everyone in this beautiful region of south-west London.”
Coppa Club Putney’s interior design takes inspiration from the boating heritage in the area and uses blues and greens throughout. The club will offer a relaxed atmosphere with low level lighting and is separated into several sections to meet the needs of each guest. It also has private indoor and outdoor spaces available to book.
A library snug gives customers the opportunity to hold business meetings and read a book. In the evening, the space offers a lounge-like feel, dimmed lights, fireplaces and a full-service bar. A dining area is set within a conservatory space, with slide-door panelling, complemented by a terrace and three glass igloos.
Manahatta is first Arc Inspirations’ site in Birmingham
Bar operator Arc Inspirations has opened its first site in the Midlands as Manahatta Birmingham.
The Temple Street bar opened this month and offers a New York-themed bar that promises to be an ‘Instagrammable’ venue. It boasts two deluxe private party rooms available for hire – with one including a swing. The menu features new brunch and lunch offerings, including American-style pancakes, bagels and power bowls.
Those wanting a bigger bite can opt for the Empire-State Chicken or Steak Frites while drinks include “high-quality, innovative cocktails”. A Manahatta Bottomless experience is available to book day or night, featuring American brunch dishes, prosecco, and refreshing spritz cocktails.
Manahatta Birmingham is the seventh site for the brand, whose current locations include Leeds, Manchester, York and Harrogate. The group currently operates 17 premium bars across the north of England, under the brands of Banyan Bar & Kitchen, Box and Manahatta. The company is also gearing up for the introduction of Box to Deansgate, Manchester, in November.
BrewDog to open biggest bar to date
Scottish craft brewer BrewDog will open its largest site in the South Bank next summer, in what it describes as “the first in a completely new type of venue”. It will unveil its 26,500sq ft flagship site forming a centrepiece of the rejuvenated Waterloo Station in London.
BrewDog Waterloo will encompass two floors of amazing craft beer, spirits, food and entertainment in the centre of the city, close to the busy Waterloo rail platforms above.
The premises had previously been earmarked for a Time Out Market but
BrewDog Waterloo will house an on-site brewery that customers can see, smell and even tour around, offering regular favourites to exclusive one-off creations.
Customers can enjoy their craft beer paired with a multitude of food options from BrewDog Waterloo’s extensive menu alongside a pop-up food truck. To work up an appetite, there will be an innovative gaming area complete with duckpin bowling alley, shuffle boards and a slide to get between floors.
Other features will include a speakeasy-style cocktail bar and lounge, and a spacious outdoor terrace for enjoying drinks amid the greenery of a not-for-profit florist, selling flowers and potted plants to customers and those passing by.
BrewDog will be partnering with coffee brand Grind on the project with the London brand opening a coffee shop within BrewDog Waterloo that will serve coffee from 7am daily.
BrewDog has been working with station owners London & Continental Railways on a game-changing update for the 26,500sq ft site, as the former International Eurostar Terminal looks to welcome visitors once again.
BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “London’s beer scene is the rival of any in the world, and our supersized plans for BrewDog Waterloo, at the epicentre of the UK’s busiest railway station, are a testament to that; this is quite simply one of the biggest things we have ever announced.
“We can’t wait for Londoners and visitors to the city alike to see our new flagship for the capital. Beer, bowling, cocktails and coffee – BrewDog Waterloo will be a destination for anyone seeking out great food, great drinks and an amazing time.”
David Abrahamovitch, CEO and founder of Grind, added: “Brewdog’s plans for its new flagship are incredible, and we’re really excited to be a part of it. Grind coffee is already served in BrewDog bars across the country, and we’re excited to take our partnership further with the launch of a Grind café inside the new space at Waterloo.”
Bulldog Gin Courtyard launches at Printworks
Bulldog London Dry Gin has launched its Bulldog Gin Courtyard at Printworks London.
Printworks London returned in mid-September with a season of world-class music performances that focused on club culture. With sold-out shows and highlights including Defected, Glitterbox, Green Velvet and Planet Sink the Pink across the schedule, ‘Redacted’ marked the start of a 40-show season taking clubbers through until December. Attendees can look forward to performances from some top names in the music industry, including The Chemical Brothers, Idris Elba, Sonny Fodera, Gorgon City, Joel Correy and more.
As a long-standing partner of Printworks, Bulldog Gin’s new Bulldog Gin Courtyard is a dedicated space within the venue where clubbers can “enjoy twists on favourite gin classics” – its menu includes the Supersonic Gin and Tonic and the Bulldog Gin and Ginger.
The courtyard bar follows the success of its previous partnerships with Printworks’ family, including the Bulldog Gin Yard at Field Day and the existing Printworks Gin’Pourium.
Sandra Brunet, marketing director of Campari Group UK, which owns Bulldog Gin, said: “Bulldog’s partnership with Printworks has gone from strength to strength, and is a natural fit that perfectly showcases Bulldog Gin’s credentials . It’s clear to see why Bulldog works so well in the world of music. After a difficult year for the nightlife industry, we are proud and excited to once again be working with iconic London venue Printworks and are looking forward to what lies ahead for both the brands and customers.”
Vennell’s Restaurant placed on the market
Award-winning fine-dining business Vennell’s Restaurant in the market town of Masham, North Yorkshire, is up for sale.
The site was opened in 2005 by Jon and Laura Vennell and, according to estate agent Christie & Co, it has established an enviable reputation throughout the region after featuring in the Michelin Guide, AA and Good Food Guide for 14 consecutive years.
The restaurant is set in a large grade II-listed Georgian property just off Masham’s town square and has undergone an extensive refurbishment in recent months. It comprises a ground-floor dining area and a private dining room on the lower ground floor. There is owner’s accommodation on the first and second floors.
The Vennells are prepared to sell the business with or without its name and goodwill, depending on the purchaser’s wishes, so there is scope to introduce a different style of cuisine or more relaxed offering if desired.
The business is lean in terms of overheads due to the manner in which it is run. An incoming purchaser would not inherit a large team of staff, giving them the flexibility to scale up or down as they wish.
The Vennells said: “Now in our 17th year as guardians of this amazing building, it is time to pursue our next adventure. The locals have always supported the restaurant on this site, which dates back to the ’70s. The building, following an extensive renovation both inside and out this year is in exceptional condition, as is this business breaking all records in the past four months. The scope to run this restaurant more as a business than a lifestyle is massive.”
David Cash, associate director in Christie & Co’s Hospitality team is handling the sale and added: “Ordinarily, town centre restaurants are held on a leasehold basis and rarely do freehold opportunities like this one present themselves. In addition, rarely do hospitality business premises come with such substantial living accommodation. Vennell’s presents an opportunity for an experienced chef to live and work in an immaculately presented property, which has seen a great deal of investment recently.”
London Cocktail Club to open trio of sites ahead of schedule
London Cocktail Club is set to open sites in Bristol, Reading and central London throughout November, which is ahead of the company’s planned opening schedule and in time for Christmas trading.
Trading across the Nightcap group continues to be strong and ahead of expectations, with its London sites trading robustly in particular and benefiting from London Cocktail Month throughout October.
The 3,500sq ft site in Corn Street, Bristol, is set to open on 18 November while the 1,500sq ft Mansion House site at 78 Queen Victoria Street, central London will open on 22 2021, followed by the opening of the 2,861sq ft site in Gun Street, Reading, on 25 November.
The three openings will take the group’s total number of open sites from 19 to 22 sites, with an additional 11 sites currently in legal negotiations and a further 10 sites under offer, across several of the group’s brands.
Meanwhile, Luna Springs in Digbeth, Birmingham, launched its Christmas season at the weekend, with a 100-capacity outdoor ice rink featuring lessons and skate shows and an indoor 600-capacity bar, event space and Christmas market.
Nightcap intends to announce the group’s results for the year ended 27 June 2021 on 15 November. Nightcap chief executive Sarah Willingham said:
“We continue to see strong trading across the group and are delighted to announce the beginning of our ambitious opening schedule for our various brilliant bar brands. We are bringing forward our opening schedule for the rollout of the London Cocktail Club ahead of the important Christmas trading period.
“The first London Cocktail Club site outside London, in Bristol, was launched in 2018 and has been very successful. We look forward to opening our second Bristol site in the prime Corn Street location. The Corn Street site will be the brand’s biggest to date and is ready to host up to 300 people.”
“I am so proud of how hard the teams have worked to ready the brands for nationwide rollout, including the impressive November 2021 bar opening schedule. This has been achieved alongside growing the pipeline of new potential prime sites across the country and is a testament to the talent, collaboration and focus within the businesses.”
Pubco boss seeks fourth venue after £1m renovation to third site, adds Hands & Flowers chef to team
A former doctor who left Siberia with less than £600 in his pocket 20 years ago is looking to open his fourth gastropub following a £1m revamp of one of his sites.
Joshua Khan, who couldn’t afford to re-train in medicine when he came to the UK, now has three thriving gastropubs – the latest being the Great Shefford near Hungerford in Berkshire, which now has a new menu and new chef, Sam Cary, formerly of Tom Kerridge’s Hand & Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, and is looking for a fourth site under his pubco J and G Pubs.
As well as the gourmet riverside Great Shefford, with its seasonally inspired menu and an elegant restaurant, Joshua’s portfolio also includes the King Charles in Newbury, Berkshire, and the Broad Face in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.
Under the creative eye of Cary, the menu includes dishes such as burrata with shaved fennel and roasted seeds; fried duck egg, lardo, barbecued leek and sherry vinegar; bream, cauliflower, spinach, grape, foasted almonds and Vadouvan butter sauce; pork chop, pomme purée, confit beetroot, apple, hazelnut jus gras and pink peppercorn and lime pavlova.
Khan said: “Having Sam now lead the kitchen at the Great Shefford makes me feel like Alex Ferguson when he signed David Beckham. We are delighted to welcome him to the kitchen and are excited about what he brings to the Great Shefford.”
Despite the impact of the pandemic, Khan would now like to see greater value being placed on entering hospitality as he pointed out happens in France, where the catering industry is seen as a career choice rather than a stop-gap.
Khan added: “If people joined hands in the hospitality industry, it could become a much more vibrant market for the UK economy in which people would stay and build careers, where it isn’t something just to fall into when you can’t find a role somewhere else.
“My business model is that I want to make everyone my business partners. We work together to create our own goals. We pay a very acceptable amount of money to staff, even our younger people, who are paid above minimum wage, and, as a result, we have people who have been with us for more than five years. We want them to grow their careers with us, not just have jobs.”
Brucan Pubs opens third site with Greene King Pub Partners
Brucan Pubs, owned and operated by James Lyon Shaw with his business partner Jamie Dobbin, have taken their third site with Greene King Pub Partners – the Greyhound in Finchampstead.
The Berkshire pub has recently reopened following a joint £500,000 investment that has transformed the interior and landscaped the large outdoor space. Three terraced levels feature heated pods and western-style wagons, a drinking terrace and a pergola-covered eating area. A village shop has also been created called Goswell & Bird’s, which is transformed in the evening into an alternative dining and event space.
Lyon Shaw said: “This is the third pub we have taken with Greene King Pub Partners since June 2018. Their values are aligned with ours so on that basis we have built a really good relationship and it made sense to seek out their pub opportunities.
“We learnt from the pandemic that you need to diversify quickly and that’s why we were keen to develop another premium village pub but with the additional trading areas like the terrace for drinking and the shop that provided for different needs”.
Operations director for Greene King Pub Partners, Mike O’Connor, added: “We have invested in excess of £500,000 with Brucan Pubs over the past 18 months, both at the Drumming Snipe in Woking and most recently at the Greyhound. Working with a visionary business like Brucan Pubs ensures these pubs have a long and successful future, establishing themselves firmly within their communities. We are encouraged by the way Brucan has invested in its people and what it is doing across their three pubs and hope to enable them to grow their pub portfolio further.”
Since reopening the Greyhound, Brucan Pubs has created 40 new jobs. It employs a total of 150 across the business with six apprentices within its three pubs with Greene King Pub Partners.
Council on hunt for historic hall operator
The opportunity to re-establish an historic hall in St Albans as a hospitality venue has come to market.
Specialist business property advisor Chrsitie & Co has placed Batchwood Hall – a large vacant property – on the market in a bid to find an operator to run the site under St Albans City & District Council.
Designed in the Queen Anne-style and built in 1874 for Edmund Beckett, Batchwood Hall has served a variety of uses over the years. The manor house began its life as a private estate until St Albans council purchased the property in 1935, when an 18-hole golf course was built in the grounds.
From the 1970s, the property was home to St Albans’ nightclub ‘Club Batchwood’ and most recently used as a vaccination centre to support the Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
Now that Batchwood Hall is vacant, the council is looking for an ambitious new hospitality operator to breathe life back into the iconic building and begin a new chapter in its history.
St Albans is known for its thriving café and restaurant culture and following a strategic review of the building by Christie & Co’s consultancy team, it is felt a new high-quality pub-restaurant with letting rooms will appeal most to the affluent local community, as well as visitors to the adjacent Batchwood Leisure Centre and golf club, which collectively receive up to 700 visitors per day.
The three-storey building, surrounded by landscaped park land, is quiet yet well-connected. The site offers significant scope to develop a stunning destination which complements the historic fabric of the building, just minutes from St Albans city centre.
The council is willing to offer flexible lease terms and incentives to ensure a long-term partnership with the new operator.
St Albans City & District Council estates services manager Tom Hardy said: “This is a rare opportunity for both the council and a future operator. It is not often we are able to offer a lease for such a historically significant building. Batchwood Hall is much loved locally and there is huge scope and potential for the right operator to create something rather special, further enhancing what is on offer at the Batchwood Estate.”
Tim Widdows, business agent in Christie & Co’s licensed hospitality team, who is leading the search for the new lessee added: “We’re delighted to be working with St Albans Council to develop a wonderful new food and beverage business in the community. Following a refurbishment programme, this historic property could be reimagined to be the one of the highest income-generating and unique properties in the area.”
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