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Tue 1st Jul 2014 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Alex Reilley – Loungers' biggest challenge is cultural: Loungers founder Alex Reilley has told the Arena lunch that the company’s biggest challenge as it becomes a national brand is a cultural one. The company, which was valued at £35m overall when Piper Private Equity bought a stake in 2012 for £15.5m when it had 22 sites, is targeting 90 sites by 2017. By the end of 2014, Loungers will have 56 sites in total and run-rate annual net turnover will be £48m, with run-rate site ebitda almost £10m. Reilley told the Arena lunch: “Loungers is well-placed to become a national brand, and it is this we see as our biggest challenge. This challenge is not mechanical or even operational, although clearly this is not going to be easy. We see our biggest challenge as cultural, and we actually see this as the greatest threat to the business’ chances of becoming a really, really successful national brand. A great percentage of our customers think their local Lounge is a really good locally owned independent. Others may know there’s more than one locally, but make an assumption that the business is based in their town. A surprisingly small percentage of customers know the full extent of our size. At present, the overwhelming perception of the business still very much remains that Loungers is a cuddly, squishy, loveable, anti-brand. However, very much like in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy finally got to meet the Wizard, if our customers start to see too much of what’s behind the curtain. they will undoubtedly not like the big, aggressive, well-oiled machine that they find. Over the last 30 years this has troubled a number of businesses in our sector as they’ve got bigger; when suddenly the customer love that was there in the beginning starts to wane, the pizza is somehow smaller, the coffee not as memorable, or the sofa not as comfy. And we’re absolutely determined not to let this happen to Loungers. So determined in fact we’ve given it a name. We call this great challenge ‘The Cause’. ‘The Cause’ reminds us why we did this in the first place, that we don’t employ staff, we employ people, and that those people are the ones that really make the difference, and that the business and our people have a key role to play in the communities where the business is fortunate enough to exist. It also reminds us not to make big decisions lightly or because a spreadsheet at headquarters tells us it’s an easy win. It makes us remember the first customer we ever served and her cappuccino and that our people and our customers are proud to have a Lounge on their doorstep. We’re very focused on keeping it that way.”
   

Industry News:

Adam Hyman – Crossrail could give suburban London restaurants a boost: Restaurant consultant Adam Hyman has argued that Crossrail could improve the fortunes of suburban restaurants. In his weekly e-mail bulletin, he wrote: “Sad news from across the Atlantic – Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe is to close and relocate next year after the rent increased to unsustainable levels. We may well begin to see the same kind of thing happening here, especially to independent restaurateurs, as rents continue to rise. However, I have a theory that Crossrail is going to affect the central London restaurant market. Less time getting into town from the suburbs may mean people begin eating closer to where they live, instead of staying in the West End. This will hopefully lead to an increase in neighbourhood restaurants and reduce the premiums and rents on central London sites.”
   
Plymouth becomes first city in the world whose restaurants are recognised for serving sustainable fish: Plymouth has become the first city in the world to secure an award recognising that its restaurants stock sustainable fish. The Fish2fork Blue City Award is for restaurants that choose fish caught by sustainable means and inform customers about those methods. Campaigners believe customers spend £3mn on eating fish in Plymouth restaurants every year. The National Marine Aquarium, Destination Plymouth and Plymouth University Marine Institute joined forces last year to initiate the Blue City project to demonstrate the sustainable seafood credentials of the city’s restaurants. Paul Cox, director of conservation and communication at the aquarium, said: “The Blue City award is an excellent achievement for the city and credit must go to the restaurants that are demonstrating such good practice. This is a real feather in the cap for the city and hopefully we can build on this to lead the country in the Sustainable Fish City campaign.
   
Study says UK supermarkets are shifting taxes onto more expensive products: British supermarkets are responding to increases in alcohol taxes by subsidising cheaper products and shifting more of the tax rises onto more costly products, new research claims. The study, published in the journal Addiction, was led by the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research, with business experts from the University of East Anglia and Loughborough University and funded by the Medical Research Council. Researchers used weekly product-level supermarket prices for 254 alcohol products to analyse how prices shifted in response to tax changes, examining drinks sold at different price points in four categories: spirits, beers, ciders and wines. The results allegedly showed retailers were tackling rises in alcohol taxes by "under-shifting" their cheaper products (raising prices below the level implied by the tax increase) and "over-shifting" more expensive products (raising prices below the level implied by the tax increase).
  
More workers using coffee shops and pubs to work: A survey by 02 has found that two out of five workers in Britain spend four hours or more a week working from places away from the office, with pubs and coffee shops particularly popular. In total, Britons spend 131 million hours a week working from coffee shops, and 8% of those working outside the office do so from the pub. New rules mean that the trend is likely to increase because employers will now have to consider any request for flexible working in a reasonable manner. The government hopes the new right will benefit older employees, who may want to work differently as they approach retirement.
   

Company News:

Tea 42 plans 20 UK sites: Tea 42, a Manchester-based gluten-free restaurant brand, has unveiled plans to open 20 outlets across the UK. William Hannah launched the concept last November with business partner Jason Abbott to deal with the lack of gluten-free places to eat in the UK. The first site, which has 68 covers and cost £350,000 to fit-out, is on track to take £800,000 in its first year, expected to rise to £1,000,000. “We’ve got offers in on two other further sites already,” Hannah told The Daily Telegraph. “I wanted to launch a concept that was a tea room during the day and a restaurant in the evening, serving food of such high quality that people don’t even know that they’re eating gluten-free.” The menu has been developed by Matt Smith, who trained at the Michelin-starred Hibiscus restaurant in London. Although the entire menu is gluten-free, only 30% of customers have an intolerance.
   
Cote secures 50th site: Acting on behalf of French brasserie brand Cote, Shelley Sandzer has announced it has acquired the company’s 50th restaurant, in the affluent north London enclave of Muswell Hill. Located at 311-323 Muswell Hill Broadway, London, the 3,500 square foot property was acquired in an off-market transaction with a new 25-year lease. The new restaurant will open later this year. Cote has sister restaurants in Highgate and Hampstead, which have both performed strongly since opening. Casey Phillips, at Shelley Sandzer, said: “Shelley Sandzer has seen plenty of success in 2014 already, securing new restaurant locations for Wahaca, Big Fernand and Enrique Tomas. We were confident that we could find a similarly great location for Cote.” Muswell Hill is well-populated by independent and multiple restaurants, including Carluccios, La Porchetta, Chris Kitch and Chooks.
   
Brunning & Price secures new Cheshire site planning consent: Brunning & Price, the gastro-pub brand operated by the Restaurant Group, has won planning consent to convert Bostock Green Social Club in Cheshire into a pub and restaurant. The new pub will be named the Hayhurst Arms, after the original owners of the nearby Bostock estate, who create the village of Bostock Green in the 18th century. Graham Price, of Brunning and Price, said: “We are delighted to have secured the planning consent, which will allow us to reinvigorate this lovely old building and put a pub back at the heart of the village. The Hayhurst Arms is an exciting project and the team at Brunning and Price are looking forward to getting started and will be gunning hard to get it open before Christmas.” Brunning and Price said its priority was to restore and enhance existing features of the property. The new pub and restaurant is set to create more than 40 jobs.
    
Red’s True Barbecue confirms fourth opening and hires non-executive: Red’s True Barbecue has confirmed it will open in the autumn on Queen Street, Nottingham, in the former FOPP Records site. The 5,500 square foot building will undergo a £1.1m refurbishment, and will end up with room for 160 covers. The news coincides with the company’s full-year trading figures, which sees same period turnover up 70% compared to the financial year 2012-13. Restaurant-level operating profit more than doubled during the same period. The past 12 months have seen Red’s open a flagship 185 cover restaurant on Albert Square in Manchester, while its 107-cover Leeds site continues to perform strongly. Its third site, based in Headingley, Leeds, opens in mid-July. The business, which is owned and run by first time restaurateurs Scott Munro and James Douglas, has recently seen Brandon Stephens, responsible for setting up the successful Mexican restaurant chain Tortilla, which has 15 sites across the UK, join as non-executive director. Munro said: “The gospel of true barbecue continues to convert UK food lovers. In under two years, and with just two restaurants, the Red’s experience has captured the imagination of almost 500,000 believers, introducing them to US-style low-and-slow smokehouse cooking. Stephens said: “The barbecue space is exploding, with 2014 widely heralded as the year of barbecue and Red’s positioned as the clear sector leaders. I’m thrilled to be working with James and Scott – two incredibly driven and talented individuals – and the great team they have put together as we look to grow Red’s into the national brand that consumers associate with barbecue.”
   
BrewDog launches £100,000 fund to help other craft brewers: The Scottish brewer and pub retailer BrewDog has unveiled the BrewDog Development Fund, which will see up to £100,000 of profits each year allocated to help other new craft breweries start up and become established. The company's co-founder, James Watt, said: “It was only seven years ago that Martin and I set up BrewDog with some second-hand tanks, a small bank loan and a big mission, and now we want to encourage others to do the same.” As well as providing capital, BrewDog will help other craft brewers grow by showcasing their beers in its bars, both in the UK and internationally; providing advice and support; helping with the sourcing of ingredients and brewing materials; assisting with equipment purchases; offering access to its state-of-the art laboratory for beer analysis; and helping brewers grow sales by introducing them to its international sales network. The first two official partners in the BrewDog Development Fund are the Brew by Numbers brewery, based in Southwark, South London, and CAP, based in Stockholm, Sweden. Watt said: “The whole concept is about trying to help other craft breweries get established and increase the availability and appreciation of world-class craft beers, which, in our view, will ultimately help make the world a better place.”
    
Whitbread chief executive takes £2.2m in share sale: Whitbread's chief executive, Andy Harrison, has sold 50,000 shares at a price of 4391.64p per share, worth approximately £2.2m. After this transaction, Harrison now holds 253,515 shares.
  
Flat Iron set to open second site this week: Flat Iron, the single steak concept founded by Charlie Carroll, will open its second site, in Denmark Street, Soho, London this week. The brand was launched in Beak Street, Soho at the end of 2012 and is understood to be taking £40,000 a week net and turning tables more than seven times a day on average. The business, which includes the former Mitchells & Butlers operations manager Mike Palmer and Benito’s Hat chairman Jay Travis, was originally launched as a pop-up in the upstairs area of the Owl and Pussycat pub in Shoreditch, East London. "Flat Iron" is a butcher’s cut that comes from the shoulder area, traditionally not highly prized because it is supposedly a little tougher as it is not cross-grain but in fact, aficionados say, very tasty. Carroll is a former operations adviser at Wahaca.
   
Domino’s moves from e-commerce to omni-channel future:
Domino’s Pizza is putting together data across all channels through partnerships with Sky, Weve and 4oD to develop a consistent experience for myriad types of shoppers, according to Marketing Week. The magazine said: “The process aims to let customers move seamlessly among all retail environments and will be completed by the end of the year. Domino’s, like many companies currently structuring around digital, believes merging its e-commerce and retail efforts to act as one, unifying omni-channel is key to personalising the customer experience. ??Four 'buckets of activity' sit behind the brand’s vision, spanning improvements to generating actionable customer analytics, integrating TV and mobile advertising more closely, location-based marketing and innovation. Despite sitting on a wealth of customer data stockpiled over the last four years, Domino’s says it is not yet able to use that data to fully bolster customer engagement, improve loyalty, optimise budgets and boost sales.”
   
Nando’s tops social media survey that finds less is more: The casual dining restaurant chain Nando's has topped the first Food and Beverage Social Media Benchmark from Edigital Research, with more followers on both Facebook and Twitter than any other food and beverage brand. Nando's has nearly three million followers on Facebook, over 1.4 million more than the brand in second place, TGI Friday's. Edigital Research said Nando's ran a creative and integrated social media campaign. It said promotions such as the current "Finger Selfies" push encouraged customers to get involved with the brand when they were in a branch, ultimately sharing their Nando's experience and spreading the word with their online friends, something Nando's hopes will encourage more customers through the doors. Edigital Research measured the presence of food and beverage brands on the most popular social media platforms, looking at UK pages only. It said while some fast food chains had a phenomenal following worldwide, its study found that often content was not suitable for a global audience. Promotions and offers were often for products that were not available or valid in the UK. The results also demonstrate that, when it comes to posts, quality, not quantity, was the key to a successful social media campaign. Top performers Nando's, TGI Friday's and Starbucks all, on average, posted less often than any other food and beverage brand. Derek Eccleston, commercial director at Edigital Research, said: "Social media is now an essential part of any customer engagement strategy. Our latest benchmark results demonstrate that creating engaging and interactive content that speaks to individuals, not just the wider market, is key. Brands who truly engage with followers and create a real connection with their customers are doing so on a local, country-by-country, and even branch-by branch level."
   
CBRE – M&B better able to unlock Orchid synergies: The property agent CBRE has argued that Mitchells & Butlers' success in buying 173 Orchid site is linked to its ability to unlock synergies. In a briefing document, the company said: “The completion of the acquisition of 173 pubs from Orchid by M&B saw trade and financial buyers looking hard at the sector. The lack of stock and the increase in available finance led to strong competition at the end of a long process with two financial buyers head-to-head against M&B and Greene King. In the end, it was the ability to unlock synergies which meant M&B could bid more aggressively, with Greene King publicly having left the process. This, coupled with the acquisition by OLIM of 15 pubs let to Stonegate in a deal reported to be at a 6.3% net initial yield illustrates the strength and breadth of interest in the managed pub sector. Operators continue to report positive like for like growth with JD Wetherspoon, Fuller Smith & Turner, Young’s and Spirit all reporting growth in excess of 5%. The expansion of the eating -out market, which according to recent reports is set to be worth circa £90bn by 2018, is at the heart of this growth along with the interest in real ales and additional focus on the ancillary drinking-out spend which accompanies a meal out.”
   
Cyclist Refreshment Room opens with deli counter:
Rupert and Jo Clevely’s new concept, the Cyclist Refreshment Room, operating at Brighton railway station under the aegis of their new company Greenwell & Tipple, has opened with a deli counter offer. The site has room for 80 covers plus outdoor seating and will be open from 7am to 11pm on Mondays to Saturdays, and 8am to 10pm on Sundays. The company's promotions say: “Forget fancy cutlery, reservations and friffery, you’ll find a deli-style counter at breakfast and lunch and dinner is served in the evening. For those in a hurry take-away salads, pies and quiches will also be available, in keeping with the food ethos of ‘fresh, seasonal and excellent quality.’" Rupert Clevely said: “Being a frequent traveller, I have often felt that there needs to be an improvement in the railway station offering, hence the idea of bringing back the concept of the refreshment room. These will be found in travel hubs outside London, where we aim to create a comfortable respite from the hustle and bustle and general hassle of travelling. We will focus on delicious, quick fresh seasonal food at sensible prices with a carefully chosen range of drinks and friendly, welcoming, knowledgeable staff.” The vast majority of the beers, ciders have been locally sourced including Brighton Bier. The Cyclist Refreshment Room will also offer fresh and locally caught fish from Brighton and Newhaven Fish and meat from the local Handcross Village Butchers. Other local suppliers include Caroline’s Dairy sorbet and ice cream; Home Cakery bread, cakes and brownies; and Southdowns Water. The decor is focused on vintage and "upcycled" materials. An old steam engine will feature as a main display but also act as a drinking table, the bar front is made from old suitcases and the lights were all sourced from old railway stations in Europe.
   
Red Hot World Buffet opens Leicester site: Red Hot World Buffet, owned by Luke Johnson’s Risk Capital Partners, opened its 420-cover restaurant in Leicester yesterday after a £2m investment. It is located on the corner of the High Street and the Highcross shopping centre. Part of the venue used to be the Litten Tree public house. The all-you-can-eat restaurant is spread across 16,000 sq ft over two floors and has created 70 new jobs in positions including management posts, chefs and waiting and bar staff.
   
Giraffe opens second site at Dubai International Airport:
Giraffe has opened a second site at Dubai International airport in the UAE with its franchise partner Emirates Leisure Retail, a Giraffe stop unit at Terminal Three. The 600 sq ft site is located on Concourse B. The existing Giraffe restaurant is at Concourse A. The new site is open 24 hours a day for eat-in and take-away. Emirates Leisure Retail Group's chief executive, Andrew Days, said: “Offering passengers the great taste of Giraffe in an exciting new dine-in and takeaway format is testament to our commitment to our successful partnership with Giraffe and, of course, offering our customers world-class experiences.”
   
Greene King to convert Cambridgeshire pub to Meet and Eat brand: Greene King is to convert one of its tenanted sites, the Cherry Tree pub in Soham, Cambridgeshire to its Meet and Eat brand, with a "significant" refurbishment, creating 15 new jobs. The pub has been taken over by landlord Steve Watmough and has been temporarily closed for an extensive refit. An extension will also be built, which will add a new dining area seating an extra 40 people. Once work has completed, the Cherry Tree, in Fordham Road, will re-open at the beginning of August. Clive Chesser, business unit director for Greene King Pub Partners, said: “Steve is a highly experienced landlord and a long-standing partner of Greene King, and I have no doubt that he and his excellent team will work tirelessly to ensure that the Cherry Tree becomes firmly established at the heart of the Soham community.”
    
PizzaExpress opens new site in Ealing today: PizzaExpress is launch its new-look two-storey restaurant in Bond Street, Ealing, West London today. The Ealing PizzaExpress is planning to host free visits for local primary schools, turning the kitchens into classrooms as well as offering pizza-making parties where children and adults can stretch, toss and top their own pizza. PizzaExpress opened its 500th branch in the capital of China, Beijing at the end of May, its first restaurant in the city, though there are now 22 sites in China and Hong Kong.
   
Chopstix secures fifth motorway site: The noodle brand Chopstix has opened a fifth motorway service station site, at the Folkestone Stop 24 motorway services in Kent. Chopstix has plans to take more motorway services sites as well as sites at major railway stations and airports nationwide. CDG Leisure is Chopstix’s retained agent.
  
Rock Restaurants sells Dorset site: Rock Restaurants has sold the leasehold interest in the Minster Arms in Wimborne in Dorset to an expanding pub group led by Nick Warner, for an undisclosed sum. The disposal, though the property agent David Coffer Lyons, is part of the Colonial Leisure-backed company’s strategy to focus on its other hospitality venues. Warner has more than 18 years' experience in the licensed sector, most recently in an operational capacity. He opened his first gastropub, the Swan Inn in Barton Stacey, Hampshire in October 2011, which recently underwent an extensive refurbishment. In 2012, he purchased the Olive Tree in Romsey, which is now a market town-style gastropub. The Minster Arms, is expected to reopen this month. Warner said: “This is a very exciting time for myself as a company and opening the third venue in our third year is exactly where I wanted to be. We will have three excellent free houses that trade well above the average and are looking strong for the fourth.”
   
Reclamation Inns opens second venue after £300,000 spend, seeks more outlets: Reclamation Inns, the West Midlands-based pub company that specialises in "reclaiming" pubs that have become "a little bit unloved", has opened its second outlet, a former Punch Taverns pub, after a £300,000 refurbishment. The newly renamed Railway Inn in Alsager, Cheshire, previously the Yeoman, was shut by Punch nine months ago and acquired by Reclamation in April. Tony Walsh, Reclamation's managing director, said he hoped to revive more historic pubs in the Potteries. He said: "What we're doing is reclaiming pubs that have become a little bit unloved, a little tired, and need help to get them back on their feet. Too many pubs nowadays try to be all things to all men, so there's a crowd of machines, music, games and all sorts but they don't have any character and they just don't work." The company's first outlet was the Black Boy Inn in Bridgnorth, Shropshire.
   
Fleurets offers 38 Wellington pubs to let:
The property agent Fleurets has been instructed to let 38 pubs on free-of-tie agreements on behalf of the Wellington Pub Company. The properties are spread across England and Wales and set in rural, suburban and town centre locations. The properties consist of a variety of business styles, from traditional village community inns to destination food venues and properties with letting rooms. The business need not be an exclusive pub use because the free-of-tie lease allows the property to be traded as a mixed bar/restaurant business or 100% restaurant format – lessees have the freedom to choose. Wellington Pub Company owns the largest free-of-tie pub estate in the UK, with approximately 800 tenanted public houses.
    
Brewery equipment maker Microdat goes into administration: Microdat, the Leeds-based brewery equipment manufacturer whose clients include Timothy Taylor of Keighley, Kirkstall Brewery, Ossett Brewery and Moorhouse's Brewery of Burnley, has gone into administration. The collapse comes six months after the company moved into new, larger premises with the avowed intention of doubling turnover to £10m a year, two months after it launched its new range of microbrewery brewing kit, targeted specifically at the microbrewer and brewpub market, and two weeks after it announced the appointment of Ian Bearpark, formerly production and distribution director at Daniel Thwaites Brewery in Blackburn, as its new operations director. Ian Schofield and Graham Newton, business restructuring partners at BDO, were appointed joint administrators over Microdat last week. The administrators will continue to trade the company with a view to effecting a sale of the business and its assets as a going concern. Schofield said: "The joint administrators are currently appraising the position of the company and assessing whether there is viability in undertaking a period of restricted trading, whilst a sale of the business and assets is achieved. A sale of the business will hopefully preserve the employment of a number of staff, as well as a business with a unique niche in the cask brewing industry." Maitland Hyslop, chief executive of Microdat, said: "Despite the current circumstances the company has demonstrated a potential for both growth and profitability. It represents an opportunity to acquire both a market presence and a talented workforce in a growing and vibrant market." Microdat, which makes brewery equipment including cask and keg packaging machinery, washers, fillers, conveyers, palletisers and depalletisers, pipework and pumps, has operated for more than 25 years, and currently employs 74 workers. It has grown steadily since managing director Stephen Midgley led a management buyout from BI Industries in 2002, and in 2011 it secured a £500,000 equity-linked investment from Finance Yorkshire to help meet demand.
   
Surge in popularity of EISs: Latest figures show a surge in the popularity of Enterprise Investment Schemes. A report by HM Revenue & Customs has revealed that more than 2,700 businesses used Enterprise Investment Schemes in the 2013-14 tax year, which is three times as many as in 2008-09 and an all-time high. Chancery Investment Partners argued that the popularity of EIS schemes was linked to business seeking finance in the context of the continued decline in bank lending.
   
Coeliac UK launches app: Coeliac UK, the national charity for people with coeliac disease, has launched an app called "Gluten-free on the Move". The app which is available now on iPhone and Android, aims to help people diagnosed with coeliac disease and those following a gluten-free diet, to manage every element of their diet, whether it is shopping for food or finding somewhere to eat out. The app includes access to Coeliac UK’s Food and Drink Directory listing of nearly 10,000 products suitable for a gluten-free diet and allows users to scan items as they shop to see if they are listed in the directory.
   
Ealing Council revokes licences of two nightclubs:
Two nightclubs with a history of violent crime have been shut by Ealing council in West London. The sites, in Southall and Acton, have had their trading licences revoked this month after police concerns for public safety. Police initiated an application to close the Tudor Rose in Southall. which had at one point wanted to open until 6.30am. Ealing Council’s licensing sub-committee decided to revoke the licence of the Tudor Rose. at 68 The Green in Southall, having initially suspended its licence on an interim basis in late May. The Tune Inn, now called Pinx, at 48 High Street in Acton had appealed against the council decision in March last year to revoke its licence, but this was turned down at Ealing Magistrates’ Court. Both venues now cannot open, though there is a possibility they may appeal against the decision through higher courts.
   
Italian pop-up takes permanent site, part-time: Restaurant consultant Adam Hyman has reported that the Italian pop up Forza Win is to open a permanent restaurant on the site of a former cash and carry in Peckham, South East London. He said: “Peckham Dispensa will be al fresco and serve 70 covers on communal tables. For the first eight weeks of summer, they will be open Thursday to Sunday evenings for dinner. From September they will open for one weekend a month.”
  
Massachusetts to bring in highest minimum wage in US: Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has signed into a law an increase in the state’s hourly minimum wage, from $8 (£4.68) to $11 an hour by 2017, including new baselines for tipped workers. The $11 benchmark puts Massachusetts on course to have the highest minimum wage of any state in the United States. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Patrick said: “Raising the minimum is about bringing a little relief to the working poor, many of whom do jobs we could not live without and who, by the way, will recycle that money right back into the economy.”
    
JDW to open first Irish Republic pub next week, eyes third: JD Wetherspoon is to open its first pub in the Irish Republic, in the Dublin suburb of Blackrock, next Tuesday (8 July), with the creation of 60 new jobs. The company has spent €2.38m (£1.9m) developing the outlet, on the site of the former Tonic Bar, in Temple Road, Carysfort Avenue. It will feature a dozen hand-pulls, which is thought to be six more than have ever featured on the bar of a pub in the Irish Republic before. Chief executive John Hutson told Propel: “The pub was finished ten days ago and we’ve been busy training. The main difference we’ve found in building the pub is the local regulations – there are quite a few new regulations around fire that have come in. There will be 12 hand-pulls with real ale from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as local and regional beers. Cask ale is nowhere near as commonplace in southern Ireland as here. But it’s something that we’ve always championed. We’ve taken the view that Dublin is an international city and there is an expectation that we will serve cask ale. I was in Dublin last week and my taxi driver told me that he always drinks cask ale when he’s in Scotland and visits our pubs. I also remember opening our second or third Scottish pub in Paisley and a customer collared me and suggested we serve London Pride (rather than just local cask ale). So the idea is to serve great UK cask ales.” The pub will open from 8am to midnight and is licensed from mid-morning – it will serve food throughout the day. The pub, which will be called the Three Tun Tavern, will be managed by John Hartigan, who is Irish but previously ran a Wetherspoon pub in Islington, North London. Among the local beers on sale will be Tom Crean’s Irish Lager from the Dingle Brewing Company, Rebel Red from the Molson Coors-owned microbrewer Franciscan Well in Cork, and beers from Eight Degrees Brewing in Mitchelstown, County Cork, including Howling Gale, Knockmealdown Porter and Barefoot Bohemian Pilsner. At the centre of the pub, a curved oak bar has been built as a reference to a tun, a large beer cask, while the interior design is based upon the concept of "faded grandeur", in homage to the grand houses of 18th century Blackrock, many of which have disappeared. There is also a "reading room", with panelled ceiling and vintage books dedicated to Blackrock’s most famous author, James Joyce. Photos, a local history board, commissioned artwork by local artists and information boards relating to events, historical buildings and characters of the area will be displayed in the pub. Included in the artwork are original works from the Dublin-born impressionist artist Gerald Hegarty, who lives and works in Blackrock. A lithograph from the Dublin-based Renate Debrun is also part of the collection, as well as an original John Alexander Halliday piece, titled View From Deepwell, which depicts a view from the terrace at Deepwell, across Dublin Bay. Wetherspoon also plans to open in the former Newport Cafe site on Paul Street in Cork city centre. The company is investing €1.5m into a refurbishment of the site, which is currently closed. Hutson told Propel that the company is hoping to go on site very shortly. The development is more complicated because two buildings are being “knitted together”. Wetherspoon is also eyeing the 40 Foot, a pub in Dun Laoghaire, just south of Blackrock, a site that is owned by the Irish "bad bank" Nama.

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