Operators takes on second Star site

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Portfolio growth: Richard Hepplestone (left) and Simon Woodcock (right) have taken on the lease of their sixth pub as they look to build an estate of 10 in the region
Portfolio growth: Richard Hepplestone (left) and Simon Woodcock (right) have taken on the lease of their sixth pub as they look to build an estate of 10 in the region

Related tags Star pubs & bars Pubco + head office Multi-site pub operators

South Yorkshire operators Simon Woodcock and Richard Hepplestone are taking the lease on their sixth pub as they look to build a 10-strong estate in the region.

Closed for more than a year, the Black Bull in Ecclesfield is set to reopen at the end of the month (July) following a £198,000 investment from Star Pubs. The pub, which is likely to create 10 new jobs, is the duo’s second venture with Star.

The investment has resulted in the pub becoming a family-friendly premium local with a pretty garden, dedicated games room and varied entertainment programme.

Its new look will include a completely renovated outside area and development of a 40-seater sheltered courtyard garden with large screen for watching sports.

Internally, the décor is sympathetic to the traditional old stone pub with contemporary design touches incorporated.

There will also be three distinct areas – a comfortable carpeted lounge, spacious bar and a games area, which will feature a pool table, darts and screens showing Sky Racing, Racing TV and Sky and TNT Sports.

Loyal following

Woodcock and Hepplestone’s business model focuses on community locals, specialising in sports and entertainment.

Activities will range from sports screenings and darts to pool teams and live music, DJs, quizzes and bingo.

Similarly to the duo’s other sites, trade is expected to be largely wet but a menu of pub classics such as pizzas, burgers and pies will also be available, which is likely to generate 10% of sales.

Hepplestone said: “We prefer the community to the town centre market. Overheads like business rates are lower, there is less competition from managed chains with deep pockets and if you invest time in getting to know your customers, you can build up a loyal following of regulars.

“Leasing pubs is essential to our expansion, the expense of buying pubs is too great to build up a volume of sites.

“The Black Bull has loads of potential but we couldn’t have considered it without Star’s financial backing, which will refurbish the pub to the high standard customers now expect at their local."

Further project

He added: “We’ve worked collaboratively but their project team is doing the heavy lifting required in terms of undertaking the works, enabling us to continue to focus on operating our other pubs.

“We are already considering a further project with them.”

The pair have real expertise in community locals in South Yorkshire, according to Investment manager for Star Pubs Yorkshire, Lorna Willoughby

“They are passionate about developing great pubs and are ideal operators for the Black Bull. The Ecclesfield pub scene struggled post the pandemic but is now seeing a resurgence and we are pleased to be able to play our part in that," she said.

This investment is part of Star’s £39m programme to upgrade sites​ this year, which it announced in May.

Related topics Star Pubs & Bars

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