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Thu 13th Mar 2014 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pub and restaurant like-for-likes up 0.2% in February: Pub and restaurant groups had a flat February with collective like-for-like sales up just 0.2% on the same month last year. The London market performed best, with a like-for-like increase of 1.3%. Total sales, including the impact of new openings, were ahead 2.7% on this time last year. The latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, the sector’s leading sales barometer, come after a strong Christmas trading period and a 7.2% leap in like-for-like sales in January for the nation’s pub, bar and restaurant groups. “Again the winter weather was a factor, if a more benign one this last month,” said Peter Martin of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker for the out-of-home market in partnership with Coffer Group, Baker Tilly and UBS. “February last year was a relatively good trading month, with LFL sales up 3.3% on 2012, wedged as it was between the two snow-hit months of January and March. So to record similar figures this year, especially on the back of a bullish January, will still be good news for the sector,” Martin said. Operators inside the M25 had the best monthly results, with a 1.3% like-for-like sales increase, driven mainly by the performance of London pubs. The result easily beat a collective 0.3% fall for the rest of the country. Restaurant groups were the best performers outside of the capital in February. “However, underlying growth in the managed pub, bar and restaurant sector remains solid,” Martin said. “Year-on-year, like-for-like sales for the combined 27 companies in the Tracker sample were running 2% up for the 12 months to the end of February, with total sales running 4.6% ahead. The London market continues to outperform the rest of the country, although outside of the M25 is also in long-term positive growth. The beginning of every year is always a relatively quiet trading period, but there is a growing optimism among operators, reflected in the results of CGA Peach’s own annual Business Leaders’ Survey of 170 top executives, which showed 61% were fairly optimistic and a further 29% very optimistic about the prospects for their businesses this coming year.”
 

Industry News:

Scotland could go first on VAT cut if it gains independence: Scotland could go first on a VAT cut for the sector if it gains independence, increasing pressure for Westminster to follow suit. Mike Weir, the SNP Westminster spokesperson on Business, Innovation and Skills and Energy and Climate Change, said an independent Scotland could seriously consider implementing the move. He said: “At present VAT is controlled from Westminster, which has steadfastly refused to implement a cut. With independence, we would have the powers to set VAT rates to benefit our tourist businesses and to boost our rural economy.” Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, has asked ministers in both the UK and Scottish parliaments to “acknowledge the proven benefits that a cut in tourism VAT can bring”, and act accordingly.
 
Breakfast was only day-part in growth in US in 2013: Restaurant customers in the United States showed a growing appetite for breakfast last year, increasing their visits at the morning meal by 3%, while traffic for most other dayparts fell, according to new research The research firm NPD Group found that US consumers made more than 12.5 billion restaurant visits at breakfast time in 2013, marking the third consecutive year of increased breakfast traffic. Guest counts for the morning meal were essentially flat for 2010 before rising 2%, 1% and 3%, respectively, over the next three years. However, traffic dropped 1% last year for both the lunch and dinner dayparts, which both have greater overall shares of total restaurant visits, according to NPD. While morning meals account for 21% of all visits, lunch and dinner account for 34% and 31%, respectively.
 
ALMR welcomes National Minimum Wage decision: The government has approved a rise in the adult rate of the National Minimum Wage from £6.31 to £6.50 an hour. The rate for 18 to 20-year-olds will rise to £5.13, the rate for 16 to 17-year-olds will rise to £3.79 and the apprentice rate will increase to £2.73. The ALMR's strategic affairs director, Kate Nicholls, said: “The government’s decision to accept the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission to increase the National Minimum Wage to £6.50 has shown a much-needed degree of restraint. The decision allows for an increase for employees and crucially avoids imposing additional, unsustainable costs on businesses across the UK. We are pleased to see the commission acknowledge the pressures faced by low-paying sectors in its report and recognising the fact that smaller employers face tighter profit margins than large businesses. Margins across the licensed retailer sector remain tight and the increase in pay will push the margins of affordability for many pubs, clubs and restaurants. We saw wages in the hospitality sector rise by more than the CPI rate of inflation last year, showing that, when affordable, the industry is prepared to invest in its staff. The moderation shown by the government will ensure that hospitality businesses are still in a position to do so.”

Darden files documents to spin off Red Lobster: Darden Restaurants has filed initial documents with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for a spinoff of its Red Lobster subsidiary, although it is also still exploring a possible sale. Darden said in a news release that the Red Lobster sale process "is well under way". Analysts said that probably meant Darden has worked with a banker to determine a price for Red Lobster and is talking with interested parties. If the company should pursue a spinoff instead of a sale, Darden shareholders would receive a share of the new Red Lobster Seafood Co for each share of Darden stock they own.

Coventry to get its first pop-up restaurant:
The city of Coventry is to get its first pop-up restaurant. Local chef Karen Lewis is to open Good Food Social at an undecided venue. She said: “As a trained chef I have ten years of catering experience. My passion is for Bib Gourmand level rustic, bistro food that is of course handmade using quality, seasonal produce. With our relationships with farmers, growers and producers, Good Food Social can deliver a whole experience from land and sea to plate. To test our pop-up restaurant idea, we went into the city centre and asked people of all ages what they wanted. They have told us that they would like quality and something a bit different that they can't get anywhere else. With Good Food Social we want to deliver sophisticated and fashionable pop-ups. We will offer Coventry British food, presented with a twist and exceptional service with a sense of theatre. “

Luke Johnson – economic outlook is as good as it gets:
Sector investor Luke Johnson has argued that the current economic outlook is as “good as it gets”. In his Financial Times column, Johnson said: “The Bank of England said in February that it expects the economy to grow at the rapid rate of 3.4% this year, which could be faster than any other developed nation. Interest rates remain low, so money is cheap – and the banks are lending again. The equity markets are strong, and even new issues are back in favour on the London Stock Exchange. Inflation is subdued, confidence is surging, unemployment is falling and corporate investment is finally taking off. Spring is here, the sunlit uplands await.”

Propel to chair panel at ALMR spring conference: Propel's managing director, Paul Charity, will chair a panel at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers spring conference on 29 April. The theme of the conference is FutureShock – Innovate, Involve, Inspire, and a number of panels will look at retail innovation. Propel’s panel will look at the importance of provenance to customers and product authenticity and sourcing in the rise of the artisan/craft offer. It will feature Lisa Yearwood of Drake & Morgan, Nick Miller of Meantime and Richard Bigg of Camino and Big Chill all of whom work hard to make sure that their products are “real” and who send staff on scouting and inspiration trips to make sure that they are constantly innovating. E-mail hcliffe@almr.org.uk to book tickets.
 
Maidstone restaurant faces losses of £1,100 after customers exit stage left: The Laughing Buddha restaurant in Maidstone, Kent, is nursing losses of £1,100, after more than 40 diners left without paying. Problems began when a customer went into the kitchen to complain about the service. The owner said that if the customer wasn't happy he could leave, and 43 diners took him up on his offer. In the chaos, another table of seven people left without paying, leaving the owner with unpaid bills of £1,128.72.
 
Siba names new chairman: The Society of Independent Brewers (Siba) has named Guy Sheppard of Exe Valley Brewery as its new chairman, succeeding Keith Bott. At its AGM in Sheffield, members also voted for a change in Siba’s structure, which will merge the management of the trade association and the commercial arm, until now run as a separate entity. The new unifying structure follows an in-depth strategic review of Siba, developed around a vision for the organisation to "build the future of British beer" and examining both its trade association activities, including political lobbying, training and membership services, and its successful commercial wing. Under the new structure, the unified board will comprise 24 trustees from Siba’s eight regions, a new managing director and a finance director, as well as three non-executive directors.

Wetherspoon earns fourth place in Top Employer awards: JD Wetherspoon has been certified as a Top Employer United Kingdom 2014. It was named in fourth place overall in the large organisation category, ahead of companies including Tesco, Asda, McDonald’s and Marks & Spencer. A total of 78 companies across the UK were recognised for achieving excellence in employee conditions. Wetherspoon was the only pub company to be named as a top employer. It is the 11th consecutive year that Wetherspoon has been certified by the Top Employers Institute, the independent organisation behind the Top Employer awards. The UK awards are supported by the Guardian newspaper. The certification is based on independent research that shows that Wetherspoon has “outstanding HR policies and offers excellent working conditions”. Wetherspoon was assessed on primary benefits, secondary benefits and working conditions, training and development, career development and company culture. The chain's legal and personnel director, Su Cacioppo, said: “We are extremely proud to be named as one of the UK’s top employers. Wetherspoon employs more than 32,000 staff across its pubs and at its head office and we are committed to offering each and every one the best opportunity to succeed and grow with the company.” The Guardian said: “Wetherspoon’s had earned a reputation for innovation as an employer. In 2009 it was the first pub chain to sign the government’s Skills Pledge. It started smoke-free bars as early as 2006. It has abolished compulsory statutory retirement and has introduced a pay scheme where managers can earn an extra 50% of their salary in bonuses.”
 

Company News:

Douglas Jack – Spirit has grown site Ebitda by 37% in three years: Numis Securities' leisure analyst, Douglas Jack, has issued a "Buy" note on Spirit Pub Company shares, with a price target of 110p, ahead of a trading update on the first 28 weeks next Tuesday (18 March). He said: “Managed pub like-for-like sales rose 4.3% during the first 20 weeks with food up 4.2%, drink up 3.9% and accommodation, machines and Wacky Warehouse admissions were all positive. This largely reflects brand improvement, rising service levels, volume growth in Fayre & Square and Flaming Grill as well as ongoing strong trading for Taylor Walker in London. We expect to hold our forecasts, which assume 2.5% full year managed like-for-like sales (guidance is 3%) and 0.4% leased like-for-like Ebitda growth, similar to company guidance. Also, freehold pubs should start being acquired in H2 for conversion to Spirit’s brands, mostly Flaming Grill (adding to a pipeline that already includes 40 Locals pubs). Despite a strong track record that includes growing average managed pub Ebitda by 37% over the last three years, Spirit still has the lowest EV/Ebitdar valuation in the sub-sector. We would buy for the growth and for another potential re-rating.”
 
Greene King applies to open Farmhouse Inn outside Swindon close to Harvester: Greene King has applied to build a new Farmhouse Inn on land opposite the David Lloyd gym off Thamesdown Drive, Swindon. The site is located off Latham Road, near a Harvester outlet, and has yet to be developed. The brewery is hoping the restaurant will also attract users of the A419 road to Cirencester and Stroud. A Greene King spokesman said: “We have submitted a planning application to build a new Farmhouse Inn at Swindon Gateway, which would bring approximately 70 full and part time jobs to the local area.” Farmhouse Inn is the operational name for the sites operated by the former Cloverleaf business, acquired in 2011.

Bill’s imminent arrival in Eastbourne a five-year dream come true: Eastbourne Council has expressed its satisfaction that Bill’s is opening in the town. The opening, at a Harvey’s of Lewes pub, The Terminus, ends five years of efforts to persuade the brand to open. The leader of Eastbourne Council, David Tutt said, “For the last five years colleagues at Eastbourne Council have been in dialogue with Bill’s about coming to Eastbourne and I’m so delighted that this ambition will now be realised. It is fantastic news and at a time when we are transforming the town centre retail experience it represents a massive vote of confidence in Eastbourne by a very high profile and respected brand. I know lots of people from Eastbourne travel to Lewes and Brighton just because Bill’s is so popular.”
 
Swindon licensee to open nightclub: A Swindon licensee is to open a new 300-capacity nightclub in the town centre on Easter bank holiday weekend. Medina, in Theatre Square, will focus on older clubbers, and is owned and funded by the owner of the adjacent Foxies lap-dancing club, David Broome. He said: “There is a dividing wall between the two venues, and there will be separate management, so the identities are totally different. I have been a licensee for 14 years now, so we have got a good idea of where we want to go with this.” The club will have a 6am licence and will open from 10pm on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Starbucks franchisee seeks to extend estate in Bournemouth:
The Southampton-based Starbucks franchisee 23.5 Degrees has applied for planning permission to convert a unit at 5-7 Richmond Hill in Bournemouth town centre to a restaurant or cafe. 23.5 Degrees already runs the Starbucks outlet at the Triangle in Bournemouth, and other Starbucks outlets in Liphook, Portsmouth and Farnborough. It has announced that it is looking for sites for new stores in Hampshire, Dorset, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Surrey.

KFC to open drive-through in Peterhead:
KFC has announced that it is to build a drive-through restaurant at the Invernettie Roundabout in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire later this year. Work is currently under way to allow construction to begin and a KFC spokesperson told the Buchan Observer newspaper: “We can confirm that building is due to commence on the new site in the next few weeks. The restaurant has the potential to create 45 career opportunities in the local community, and we are currently welcoming applications for managers and team members which can be submitted through our website. We look forward to hearing from anyone who wishes to join our team and we are excited to welcome residents into the store later this year.”

Wildwood opens in Salisbury, Nando’s on the way:
Wildwood has opened in the city of Salisbury. Around 40 jobs have been created at the new restaurant, which is in the Cross Keys Centre on Queen Street on the site formerly occupied by the Thomas Cook travel agency, which closed in August. Meanwhile, work is well under way to transform the former QS clothing store in Queen Street into a Nando’s chicken restaurant. Nando’s is set to open this spring and staff recruitment is currently taking place.

Simon Rogan to open Claridge’s restaurant in late spring: The two-Michelin-starred chef Simon Rogan will open his new restaurant at Claridge’s in central London, taking over from Gordon Ramsay, in late April. It is Rogan’s first permanent London site: the chef ran the Roganic as a two-year pop-up in Marylebone, central London. He opened L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria in 2002 and has since taken over the Pig & Whistle in the same village and opened up The French and Mr Coopers House & Garden in the Midlands Hotel in Manchester.

Ascot re-opens Egham pub after £350,000 co-investment with Punch: Ascot Inns has re-opened the Red Lion on Egham High Street, Surrey after a £350,000 co-investment with Punch Taverns. Ascot owner Vince Healy said: “The opening weekend was really busy and the new look has been well-received. The covered and heated patio area proved to be particularly popular on the opening evening. The menu is also proving to be a real winner and the range of bar snacks has been an instant hit with our customers. I expect our drinks selection to go down well as our extensive range of wines and real ales shows we are determined to cater for a wide spectrum of tastes.
 
Henley Regatta site on the market: The licence to occupy a unique riverside site fronting the Henley Royal Regatta course in the Thames is being sold through the property agent Fleurets. The site provides 3,750 sq ft of river fronting land upon which a 125-person marquee can be erected for the duration of the regatta, each year until 2033. The site sits adjacent to the Phyllis Court Club and opposite the Stewards Enclosure and has superb views towards the finish line. The licence also provides the owner with the right to moor a 45ft boat along the site’s 50ft frontage. Henley Royal Regatta attracts more than 75,000 visitors over the five-day period to watch more than 200 races. Offers for the premium of the licence are being invited. 

Former Zizzi boss joins Halfords board: Bikes seller Halfords has appointed Helen Jones, former boss of high street restaurant group Zizzi, to its board. Jones, who was at Zizzi between 2009 and 2012 and before that ran Ben & Jerry’s in the UK, is currently a senior executive at Caffé Nero. She will be a non-executive director for Halfords and also sit on its audit and remuneration committees.

Stonegate invests £230,000 in Darwen pub: Stonegate Pub Company is to invest £230,000 in The Bridgewater in Darwen. The building on Church Street was formerly known as the Palladium cinema before it was converted to a pub in 2006. In addition to a brand new menu being introduced, the pub will be increasing the number of cask ale pumps at the bar giving its customers greater choice of ales, sourced nationally and locally. Lancashire brewer Moorhouse is creating a special ale for The Bridgewater’s re-launch. Named ‘Industry’, it is an acknowledgment to the Industrial heritage of Darwen.
 
Pleisure and Wetherspoon continue to count the cost of December floods and tidal surge: The Drakes Cork and Caskhouse in Maidstone, Kent, owned by the award-wining eight-strong pub operator Pleisure, looks unlikely to re-open until June or July after the devastating flood in the town on Christmas Eve. Area manager Will Cheeseman said: “The amount which needs doing is astronomical. The floorboards need to come out and the bar needs to be replaced. The wood panelling needs to be ripped out and replaced, as does all the electrics. We are talking tens of thousands of pounds of damage.” Meanwhile, the ground floor bar area at the JD Wetherspoon pub in Lowestoft, Suffolk is closed for three weeks, so that new floors, a bar and seats can be installed and the customer area redecorated after the pub was battered by December’s tidal surge. The two-storey pub, named the Joseph Conrad, after the Polish-born author who landed in Lowestoft in 1878 on his first visit to Britain, had closed for several days after the tidal surge as hundreds of thousands of litres of water had poured into its ground floor and cellar. Wetherspoon only opened the Joseph Conrad in July last year after converting part of a former department store building. Joint manager Adie Fox, who runs the pub with David Jarnell, said: “It was important to the local community that we opened after the floods, especially during the Christmas and new year period, but we have been waiting for the right opportunity for the work to begin." The pub’s first floor bar area will remain open and the kitchen will be operating as normal during the work.

Grainger-Smith plans new sustainable restaurant in Kings Cross:
Jamie Grainger-Smith, who was Jamie Oliver’s right-hand man at Fifteen, is to launch a London restaurant that has sustainability at its heart. Grainger-Smith’s latest venture is Think.Eat.Drink (TED), also the name of a membership scheme for accredited ethical and responsible businesses that he launched in 2012. The new restaurant, on the Caledonian Road, King’s Cross, North London, and expected to open in early June, will “change the food and drink industry for the better”, Grainger smith said. He said the TED restaurant would be ethical and “know exactly where all the ingredients in the supply chain come from”.

Pizza Hut New Zealand debuts Marmite-stuffed crust: Pizza Hut New Zealand has debuted a Marmite-stuffed crust. The new Chee-Zee Marmite Stuffed Crust Pizza has Mozzarella cheese and a thick layer of Marmite, the salty yeast spread that is popular in Australia and New Zealand, as well as the UK. A large Chee-Zee Marmite Stuffed Crust Pizza is priced at NZ$8 NZ (about £5).

Wetherspoon provides lowdown on beers available for the first time at 17-day festival: JD Wetherspoon has provided the full list of beers it will be serving during its 17-day 2014 beer festival. Ten beers on offer at the pubs have been sourced from brewers in South Africa, New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, the United States, Belgium, Australia, Germany, Spain and Norway. They will complement up to 40 beers from across the UK being served in Wetherspoon pubs during the festival. The festival will run from Friday 28 March to Sunday 13 April inclusive. The overseas beers on offer are: Tea Leaf IPA Gunnamatta (Yeastie Boys, New Zealand); African Pale Ale (Standeaven, South Africa); Brown Ale (Nogne Ø, Norway); Siren’s Song Session (Cigar City, United States); Pale Ale (Driftwood, Canada); Swedish IPA (Zeunerts, Sweden); Fermin Red Ale (Mateo and Bernabe, Spain); Klosterbock (Kloster Brauerei Scheyern, Germany); Real Ale (Young Henrys, Australia); and Solange (Hildegard’s, Belgium). The UK beers include Nut Brown (Hilden); Coiled Spring (Thwaites); Raspberry Rose (Lancaster); Labyrinth (Rudgate); Sea Fever (Daleside); Spoon and Arrow (Nottingham); Wobbly Bob (Phoenix); El Dorado (Hawkshead); and Chocolate Slug Porter (RCH). The festival will feature new, seasonal and speciality beers, including a hazy wheat beer, a chocolate beer, a raspberry beer, a lemon beer, a juniper beer and a plum porter. In addition, many of the beers are available in pubs for the first time, having been brewed exclusively for the festival.
 
Roadchef to be placed on the market: The owner of Roadchef, one of Britain's biggest operators of motorway service stations, is preparing to sell the business for about £350m, Sky News has reported. Delek Group, an Israeli conglomerate with interests in energy, financial services and infrastructure assets, is appointing bankers to oversee an auction of the company. Roadchef owns 20 motorway service areas including Watford Gap. Delek, which bought Roadchef in 2007, is understood to be keen to take advantage of buoyant financing markets and the recent performance of the business to engineer a sale. Citi, the investment bank, is understood to have been lined up to handle the auction, which will represent the latest of Britain's biggest motorway services operators to change hands. Accounts filed at Companies House last autumn show that Roadchef made a profit of £5.5m on sales of £222.2m in 2012, the most recent period for which figures are available.

Geronimo Inns to transfer lease of theatre venue to secure its future: Geronimo Inns is to transfer the lease of a theatre venue at one of its pub to a new non-for-profit organisation to secure its future. The resident theatre company running the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in North London is currently operated by leaseholder Giant Olive, which is led by its artistic director, George Sallis. When the lease expires in May, freeholder Geronimo Inns will make the transfer. This company will be run by Sallis, who will continue as artistic director of the venue. He said it was hoped that the new organisation would achieve charitable status, which would make it easier to raise funds to develop and maintain the space.

Fabled French chef to open London restaurant: The three-Michelin-starred French restaurateur Alain Ducasse is to open a new restaurant in the Bulgari hotel in London in May, run by his protégé Damien Leroux. The new site is to be called Rivea London, and will take inspiration from Ducasse's knowledge of the food markets in Italy and Provence. It replaces Il Ristorante, which will close on 23 March for a full refurbishment. The chef already runs one restaurant under the Rivea brand, in St Tropez in France. Ducasse’s London venture will serve French and Italian cuisine in a "chic, convivial and relaxed" setting with a menu of small plates, incorporating the classic flavours and vivid colours of the Riviera. Leroux spent more than 10 years under the tutelage of Ducasse in Provence and Monaco.

Vapiano decides to franchise outside London: Vapiano, the Italian fresh casual dining restaurant group, is looking for entrepreneurial franchise partners as part of its expansion across the UK. The internationally successful group already has two restaurants in London, with a third opening in Soho in June. It is also in advanced negotiations on a number of sites in the capital. Vapiano is now looking to franchise its restaurants outside London in major cities across the UK. The company’s UK and US managing director, Phil Sermon, said: “Vapiano operates 141 restaurants worldwide, of which approximately two thirds are franchised. The model has worked extremely well and we believe now is the time to replicate it across the UK. Our aim is to open many new restaurants in the UK in the coming years, and while we aim to concentrate on London, we believe that there are superb franchise opportunities in the rest of the UK. We are looking for hands-on operators who have an excellent knowledge of their local market and the willingness and ability to build up a successful business there.” Vapiano Franchising's international chief executive, Mario Bauer, said: “Our existing franchisees across the world have enjoyed outstanding success with their individual restaurants. A good example is Sweden, where two franchise partners have made a great success of their eight restaurants. We have worldwide success stories from Sweden to Taiwan and from Switzerland to Australia. We are confident that entrepreneurs in the UK will view a franchise with Vapiano as an excellent opportunity to be part of a successful and growing restaurant group with a worldwide presence.”
 
Nicholson’s reveals details of Spring Ales festival: Nicholson’s Pubs, the Mitchells & Butlers brand, will showcase a diverse range of beer styles and flavour profiles during its forthcoming spring Ales festival by rotating 50 seasonally selected ales and cider favourites as well as launching specially created brews. The ale festival will take place between the 24 March and 19 April. Nicholson’s team of "senior cask masters" have also produced their own beer, in collaboration with Acorn Brewery in Barnsley, which will be available exclusively throughout the festival. Nicholson’s will also showcase four beer writer collaborations by the Welsh brewer SA Brain and will be hosting a beer and food matching event with these beers on March 18th for customers and media to help pre-promote the festival. Paul Harvey, head of sales at Brains, said: “We are delighted that Nicholson’s have included four of our craft ales in their Spring festival. Nicholson’s have always shown a real passion for showcasing high quality and interesting ales and we are delighted they can see the natural fit with the ever growing range of tastes and styles that we offer under our Brains Craft Brewery brand.”

Former Ha! Ha! Bar and Grill operations director to launch new bar concept at Punch pub:
Mick Horan, the former operations director of Ha! Ha! Bar & Grill and the Living Room chain, is to launch a new bar concept called The Study Room at a Punch Taverns pub in a £450,000 co-investment. The partnership is converting the Nag’s Head in Lancaster to the new brand. Horan said: “This is a new venture for me and I wanted to work with Punch Taverns and use my background in the industry as a platform to move this site forward and create a new brand where our quirky personality can shine through. Considering the site’s great location, I can see the potential to maximise on this and create an offer where the provenance of products is important. There will be major work conducted throughout the bar to create a more upmarket venue with stylish furnishings and a premium service, whilst remaining good value and student-friendly. We will be introducing an exciting range of craft beers, cocktails and wines and our food menu will made fresh using local suppliers.” Refurbishment work at the venue will last six weeks, and it is expected to reopen towards the end of April.

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