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Thu 1st Jan 2015 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Wasabi breaches covenants in “unprecedented period of change”: Wasabi, which operates 37 sushi and bento outlets in central London, has reported breaching “several banking covenants” in 2013 as it underwent an unprecedented period of change. The company reports that it bank, HSBC, told the company in August 2014 that it is aware of the breach but will not withdraw funds. However, Wasabi reported that it will require additional funding from June 2015 to complete anticipated store openings “in order to achieve the best commercial advantage to the company”. A total of seven new sites opened in the 16 months to December 2013, following on from five new openings in the year prior, adding nearly 50% to the Wasabi branch portfolio. A first site in New York was opened in February 2014. The company also invested in development of the Kimchee brand through associated company Kim Korean Restaurants. It reported like-for-like sales “continued to grow”. Turnover rose by 72% to £70.1m in the 16 months compared to £40.7m in the 12 months prior. Pre-tax profit was £480,557 compared to £2.84m the year before. Gross profit was £25.9m (1012: £16.5m), representing 37% of sales (2012: 41% of sales), and Ebitda was £3.49m (2012: £4.6m), representing 5% of sales (2012: 11%). The company added: “One-off costs were incurred in 2013 of approximately £950,000, comprising the write-off of irrecoverable loan balances to former group companies, more remediation work than expected on discontinued locations, higher than anticipated repairs, especially in branches where high transaction volume placed strains on equipment and infrastructure and actual costs exceeding accruals in 2012.” The company had net assets of £4.8m (2012: £4.7m). In completing its audit, Wasabi also found material errors, totaling £438,900, in relation to accounting for rent free periods, which has required the restatement of prior year comparatives. In addition, a VAT inspection by HMRC in 2013 found the company had not complied with VAT regulations and suspended penalties of £210,771 were imposed on the basis that conditions prescribed by HMRC are met by the company. Wasabi is waiting for HMRC to confirm the penalty will not be enforced.

Industry News:

Simon French – Christmas trading appears to have been strong: Cenkos leisure analyst Simon French has reported that private operators have enjoyed strong Christmas trading. He said: “Our initial conversations with private companies suggest very good trading in December with like-for-likes up around mid single digits with higher end offerings appearing to perform strongest. We expect updates next week from Domino’s Pizza (Sell) and The Restaurant Group (Buy).”

Edinburgh readers more interested in Jamie Oliver cookbook that independence white paper: A money-saving Jamie Oliver cookbook was a more popular draw than the independence white paper, Scotland’s Future, in Edinburgh’s libraries in 2014, The Scotsman has reported. The appetite for the celebrity chef’s best-seller Save With Jamie outstripped demand for the prospectus, which the SNP hoped would win over undecided voters. More than 110,000 copies of Alex Salmond’s vision for an independent Scotland were ordered in three months of release, at a cost of £1.2 million.

Middle-aged drinkers cut alcohol consumption: A study of 4,500 people aged over 45 has found that middle-aged drinkers have reduced their alcohol consumption by a fifth over the past decade as they become increasingly concerned about their health. The study found twice as many have given up alcohol compared to a decade ago, while the number saying they drink almost every day is down by a quarter to around one in seven. The research, by Keele University, found a “marked decline” in drinking with age. Professor Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Alliance, said: “By far the biggest shift has been from drinking in pubs and bars to drinking at home. There is a real problem with some older people drinking behind closed doors.” 
Activist fund raises stake in Prezzo: Activist fund Elliott International has taken an increased stake in Prezzo. Elliott International informed Prezzo in the week before Christmas that it now held 12.14% of its voting rights via contracts for difference. Elliott is known for its aggressive approach to investing, in particular its legal battle with Argentina over the country’s 2001 default. The fund first took a stake in Prezzo in November on the same day the restaurant group agreed to a takeover that has drawn criticism for undervaluing the company. Shareholders vote on the deal this month. Meanwhile, on Christmas Eve, Papa Bidco signed a permanent senior facilities agreement (SFA) with, among others, Barclays Bank and Jefferies Finance as arrangers and Barclays Bank as agent and security agent in connection with the recommended cash acquisition of Prezzo. The SFA superseded the interim facilities agreement entered into on 6 November, 2014 between Papa Bidco and Barclays Bank and Jefferies Finance. Prezzo, which agreed to be acquired by Papa Bidco in November, said last month that under the terms of the acquisition, Prezzo shareholders will be entitled to receive 126.5p in cash for each share held.

Company News:

Taylor Street Baristas coffee bond hits £1m: The nine-strong coffee shop chain Taylor Street Baristas, led by Richard Shaer, has passed the £1m mark in cash raised through its mini-bond on Crowdcube. It is seeking to raise a £1.5m minimum through an 8% yield bond – a total of £1,059,000 has been raised from 333 investors. The offer has another 19 days left to run. This year, the company’s unaudited accounts show turnover of £3,337,000 from nine shops in the most recent year, with shop pre-central overhead Ebida of £278,000 and actual Ebitda of £110,000, producing an overall loss of £276,000. Like-for-like sales rose by 14% between April and September this year.
Good Egg hits Crowdcube funding target: The Good Egg, which is seeking investment to fund a 40-seater neighbourhood restaurant on Stoke Newington’s Church Street, has hit its Crowdcube fund-raising target with 115 investors pledging £182,000 – compared to a £180,000 target – in return for 24% of its equity. It is forecasting 1,000 covers a week at an average spend per head of £12 at the Stoke Newington site with plans to open two other sites through cashflow. By January 2017, it forecasts sales of £1,828,498 and Ebitda of £250,000 per annum. The pitch states: “We hope to build a loyal following at our flagship site in Stoke Newington, sticking to our core principles and turning a healthy profit based on our sales projections and trading history. Your investment will fund capital expenditure on the kitchen, bar, furniture, construction works, garden and our pre-opening costs which include professional fees such as lawyers, rent and costs during fit-out and architects.” Anyone investing £25,000 will receive free food for life.

Celebrity chef Luke Thomas opens gin bar with restaurant to follow: Celebrity chef Luke Thomas has opened Gin Rickey’s bar in St John Street, Chester, with Luke’s Eating House, located above the bar, to follow in the second week in January. The outlet is close to sister venue Cruise nightclub run by his business partners Nick Harding and Brendan McLoughlin. The decor is described as ‘warehouse chic’ with exposed red brick and metal work. The street level specialist gin bar offers a gin and tonic menu as well as an extensive range of cocktails. Upstairs will be 80-seater Luke’s Eating House with leather seats, a private whisky room, mezzanine floor and views overlooking St John’s Church and the amphitheatre. The food is described as modern British European comfort food with a twist. Thomas said: “We’ve got a bar downstairs where you might have 100-150 people (where) we will be serving trendy gin and tonics. We have got some really funky, different cocktails that you probably won’t see in many other venues in the town.” At the age of 15, Thomas won FutureChef, beating 7,500 people to the title. He recently published a recipe book called Luke’s Cookbook.
C&C Group given 6 January deadline for Spirit offer: The Takeover Panel has set a deadline on a possible C&C Group bid for Spirit Pub Company. In October, Spirit announced that it had received an approach from C&C Group regarding a possible offer. In early November, Greene King announced its firm intention to make an offer for Spirit. Spirit shareholder meetings to approve the scheme of arrangement for the acquisition by Greene King are due to be held on 13 January. The Takeover Panel Executive has ruled that, unless the executive consents otherwise, C&C Group must, by 5pm on 6 January, either announce a firm intention to make an offer for Spirit under Rule 2.7 of the Code or announce that it does not intend to make an offer.

Nando’s, Bella Italia and McMullen pub lined up for Colchester development: A planning application for a Nando’s and Bella Italia restaurant plus a McMullen pub has been submitted for the Tollgate development in Colchester’s Stanway. Churchmanor Estates has put in for permission from Colchester Borough Council for the first phase of the proposed Stane Park development, off the new Western Approach road. The developer has pre-signed agreements with brewer and retailer McMullen for a country-style pub restaurant on the site, as well as Bella Italia and Nando’s. If approved, work on the site could begin in Spring next year and be completed within nine months. The pub would be on the roundabout, which currently has a drive-through Costa Coffee and Frankie & Benny’s. Overall the development, if given the green light, will create an estimated 140 jobs. The two-acre site is next to land that Persimmon Homes has applied to build 358 homes on, and is close to a proposed development by the Tollgate Partnership which includes plans for a cinema and further restaurants. Stephen Clark, managing director of Ipswich-based Churchmanor Estates, said: “We have lined up three high calibre occupiers in McMullen, Bella Italia and Nando’s, who will add to the choice of restaurants where the growing population of Stanway can meet, eat and relax.”

Greene King buys £1m Medway pub: Greene King has bought one of Medway’s oldest pubs, The Bell in Bredhurst. The pub was on the market for £1 million. A Greene King spokesman said: “We are pleased to announce we have purchased The Bell and will be turning the pub into one of our popular family-led pubs. We have plans to invest substantially in this pub and ensure that it remains a thriving community hub. All team members have been offered and accepted roles within our Greene King pubs in the area until The Bell is restored and able to reopen again.” The planned reopening would be “early in the New Year” subject to listed building consents.

Nathan Outlaw to relocate restaurant to Port Isaac: Celebrity chef Nathan Outlaw is to move his Michelin-starred Restaurant Nathan Outlaw to new premises in the fishing village of Port Isaac. The restaurant will be located in the building currently known as The Edge, which affords panoramic views across the bay. Outlaw’s at St Enodoc Hotel, Rock will remain open. Outlaw said: “We’ve had a fantastic five season run at St Enodoc Hotel and I’m sure Outlaw’s will continue to flourish in Rock but for our Restaurant Nathan Outlaw it felt right to look for larger premises to grow the business. The Edge building became available at just the right time so we snapped it up. With its spacious, modern interior and enviable position at the top of the village, it’s the perfect place. Also, Port Isaac, with its rich fishing heritage, is the ideal location for us to open a restaurant specialising in fish and seafood. Our guests will be able to see the fishermen working and then come and dine on their catch.”

Maroush operator reports bigger losses: Abouzakki Holdings, which operates 15 Lebanese and Mediterranean restaurants in London, including the Maroush Group, has reported widening losses. The company, founded by Marook Abouzakki, saw turnover increase to £19.1m in the year to 31 March 2014, up from £18.4m the year before. Pre-tax losses increased to £1,485,000 compared to £984,000 the year before. It had a pre-interest payment operating loss of £492,343 compared to £164,0468 on the year prior. The company stated: “Revenue has remained static, but the cost of goods continues to go up, putting pressure on margins. As many businesses of our size, the business environment remains challenging – we face competition from a new breed of restaurants.”

Flying Kiwi Holdings reports profit increase: Norfolk operator Flying Kiwi Holdings, led by Chris Coubrough, has reported pre-tax profit increased to £478,236 in the year to 31 March 2014, up from £121,657 the year before. Turnover at the business, which operates three sites including the Crown Hotel in Wells, decreased by 20.8% to £3,027,521 from £4,966,381 the year before after the demerger of two sites on 1 July 2013. The two sites, the Crown Hotel at Rudham and the Kings Head at Letheringsett, were transferred to a new company, Parworth for circa £1.2m.

Tyneside landmark nightclub set to re-open in 2015: One of Tyneside’s most popular nightclubs looks set to reopen in 2015 – although its new owner has not yet been named. Baja Beach Club on the Gateshead quayside is to undergo a refurbishment and could open its doors as early as Easter 2015, according to reports. The venue’s Facebook page has made the announcement. It stated: “The deal is done. Baja Newcastle is getting refurbished back to its complete shiny new self and re-opened as it was in its prime as the best party club.” In its heyday the club had capacity for 1,700 and offered three ground-floor and three first-floor bars. It also had spectacular views across the river. But in 2009 after ten successful years, the venue closed its doors for the last time due to “increased competition in the area and the difficult local economic conditions”.

NYC Bar & Grill to open second site and plans more: US-themed restaurant brand NYC Bar & Grill is to open its second site, this time located in Doncaster town centre. The brand, which already has a restaurant in Bawtry, has announced plans to open a new outlet on Wood Street in 2015. The venue will open in premises formerly occupied by Liberty Grill, a similarly themed US diner restaurant, which closed its doors early in 2014. A statement on the restaurant’s website said: “It started with a dream that turned into a reality. The idea was to form a great forward-thinking American restaurant brand that would be known for providing great attentive customer service while serving the freshest modern American food the New York City using numerous bespoke in-house recipes.” The first NYC restaurant opened in Bawtry on 19 December last year and “since then the brand hasn’t looked back”. The website added: “With our second restaurant planned to open in early 2015 and other sites planned for the back end of 2015 and early 2016, everyone will soon be getting the chance to sample NYC if they already haven’t.” The menu includes burgers, ribs, steak and chicken.

PizzaExpress launches January sale, plus February extension: PizzaExpress is launching a January sale – from Tuesday 6 January customers are offered a starter and a main for £10 at all sites. Starter options include a choice of PizzaExpress’ dough balls, garlic bread or garlic bread with mozzarella, plus a choice of a classic or low-calorie leggera pizza, pasta or salad. Customers can upgrade from a classic pizza to a Romana base, or enjoy a Calabrese pizza for an additional £1.55 per pizza. Customers can also download a 40% off food voucher, valid from 4 to 18 January, and another valid from 19 January to 1 February. Customers can extend the offer into February by picking up another 40% off food voucher with their bill when eating at PizzaExpress in January.

Tynemill reports “many positives” in year of losses: Nottingham craft brewer and retailer Tynemill, which operates the Castle Rock Brewery, has reported “many positives” in a year of losses. Group turnover rose 7.6% to £7,916,554 in the year ended 31 March 2014, group gross profit rose 6.7% and beer production rose by 8.7%. However, a profit of £75,512 in 2013 turned into losses of £398,828 in the most recent year. The company stated: “The reverse in net profit to net loss is due to the crystallisation of some prior year exceptional administrative items, the provision for depreciation against our appreciating freehold assets, and our continued investment in people and training to deliver a sound financial and operational base for the business going forward. The group’s long-term debt (£4.73m) is similar to last year but with the addition of a further freehold asset (Willowbrook, Gedling) and the cost of its refurbishment.” The company thanked Santander for its support – “the interest rate going forward is fixed into the medium term at a market-beating rate and removes risk of future interest fluctuations”. The company is controlled by founder Chris Holmes, who owns the majority of its issued share capital.
Mitchells & Butlers wins consent for new-build Harvester in Didcot: Mitchells & Butlers has planning consent for a two-storey new-build Harvester at Milton Gate, Didcot. Milton Park business park owner MEPC is developing land off the A4130 near the A34 Milton interchange, with a Costa Coffee and car show room. Didcot town councillor Bill Service said: “This is just what we are looking for. We have got a lot of Chinese and Indian restaurants in the area. It will be nice to have an English style one as well.”
BH Restaurants reports like-for-like sales rise: BH Restaurants, led by Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts, has reported sales grew by 3% to £28.2m in the year ended 31 March 2014 compared to a previous 53-week year. Like-for-like sales rose by 5%. The company stated: “The continued growth in sales in our restaurants is testament to the continued focus on excellence in our service standards and the quality of our product and venues.” Operating profit was £1.031m compared to £759,000 the year before. Pre-tax profit was £478,000 compared to £324,000 the year before. In April, the share capital in subsidiary Gusto Restaurants was sold Gusto Restaurants UK following an investment from Palatine Private Equity. On the same date, the share capital of BH Restaurants was sold to Blackhouse Newco, a company controlled by founders Tim Bacon and Jeremy Roberts.
Restaurant directors banned for eight years: Syed Asad Ali and Motiour Rahman, directors of TAJ Brasserie Limited have been disqualified for eight years for causing or allowing TAJ to employ 11 illegal workers in contravention of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 and making a payment of £49,500 after trading had ceased, to the detriment of TAJ’s creditors. Both Ali (56) and Rahman (43) have given undertakings to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skill, which prevents them from becoming directly or indirectly involved in the promotion, formation or management of a company for eight years from 5 December 2014. Commenting on the disqualification, Sue Macleod, chief investigator at The Insolvency Service, said: “The directors sought an unfair advantage over their competitors by employing individuals who did not have the right to work in the UK. The Insolvency Service rigorously investigates directors who breach employment and immigration legislation and this ban should act as a warning to other employers who are flouting the law.”
Everards reports turnover rise after “strong trading performance”: Leicestershire brewer and pub operator Everards has reported turnover rose 5.5% to £31.47m in the year to 30 September 2014. The company stated that growth in turnover reflects “strong trading performance in all parts of the business and continued cost controls against the background of a recovering UK economy”. Gross margin on sales to licensees in Everards pubs rose 3.4% to £7.61m and rents receivable rose 5% to £6.63m. The company made a profit on pub disposals of £1.83m compared to £1.94m the year before. Profit before tax was £4.1m, including exceptional items, compared to £2.59m the year before. Net debt stood at £22.3m compared to £22.1m the year before. Dividends of £554,000 were paid compared to £540,000 the year before.
TCG to invest £1.5m in Tattershall Castle refurbishment: Managed pub and bar operator TCG is starting 2015 with a £1.5m refurbishment of the Tattershall Castle, the company’s flagship floating bar and restaurant in London. Having pulled up the gangplank after New Year’s Eve, the ‘Tatts’ will leave its iconic berth on the Embankment in mid-January to be towed down the Thames initially to Gravesend, and from there by sea tow to dry dock in Hull. The 80-year-old vessel’s journey to Hull and back, as well as the six-week refurbishment, will be reported online and via social media using the ‘Tatts on Tour’ logo and hashtag. When the Tatts returns to its London mooring in April, it will have a brand new look inside and out. Customers will be able to book ‘cabins’ – new private booths in the main lounge – in advance for drinks and meals. The much-improved Club Room will continue to host the live stand-up Comedy Boat Show, with improved facilities for the performers, more areas for private parties, and plans to apply for a licence to perform weddings and civil ceremonies. The popular on-deck barbecue will be enhanced to reflect the latest menu trends. Nigel Wright, chief operating officer of TCG, said: “The Tatts is a London landmark, known around the world, and we’re delighted that this upgrade will improve and extend the facilities on-board and further enhance its place at the heart of the London social scene.” Also in line for a New Year facelift is the Golden Fleece, Chelmsford, where a £100,000 investment will see improvements to the pub’s live music offer with an extended stage area, as well as new informal seating to support a revamped food and drink range.

Wagamama closes in on Winchester site: Wagamama is a step closer to opening in Winchester after city planners approved a revised scheme for a new site. The brand got the green light for changes to its previously-approved restaurant in Jewry Street’s Century House. Wagamama amended plans to cut the number of flats above the restaurant from three to two and moved its planned bin store after complaints from neighbouring shops. Wagamama will be Jewry Street’s fifth Asian restaurant and 16th eatery in total, including cafes and the Gaol House pub. Wagamama’s new site Century House, a grade II listed building dating back to 1920, is currently home to City Church. The restaurant is set to create 36 jobs
Lincoln restaurateur doubles up: A new restaurant in uphill Lincoln that is a sister venue to a popular tapas bar is set to open in January. Amador Abruneiras, the man behind Ole Ole tapas bar and restaurant in the Bailgate, is opening the new sister venture called Tito’s Grill and Restaurant. The new restaurant is in the building formerly home to Castlegate Indian restaurant. In a post on the venue’s Facebook page, it has been announced the restaurant will open on 5 January.

Ask Italian acquired Giggling Squid site in Maidstone: Ask Italian has acquired a Giggling Squid site in Maidstone that the latter bought a year ago but never opened. “(Ask) made us an offer we couldn’t refuse,” said Giggling Squid founder Andy Laurillard. The Thai chain is now looking for an alternative location in the Kent town and has also identified Canterbury as a possible expansion target. Giggling Squid has also exchanged contracts on a site in Guildford. It will open in Clifton in Bristol in February and Salisbury in April or May.

Hard Rock Hotel unveils second planned European site: Hard Rock Hotel has unveiled a second planned European opening followings its successful European debut with Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza in 2014. Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife is set to open in mid-2016. The upcoming property is Hard Rock’s second project in collaboration with operators, Palladium Hotel Group, which opened the Ibiza site. Situated on Tenerife’s sunny southern coast near Adeje, the resort will feature 637 rooms, including 236 suites. The property will boast three pools and access to a natural saltwater lagoon and recreation area located just steps from the property. Additionally, it will feature four restaurants, multiple outdoor terraces and entertainment venues. “Tenerife’s superb climate, wide variety of cultural activities and strong accessibility for international travelers, makes it an ideal choice for the hotel brand’s global fan base,” said Josh Littman, vice president of EMEA development – Hotels and Casinos at Hard Rock International.

McDonald’s opens alternative cafe in Australia: McDonald’s has opened a “hipster café” called The Corner in the inner city Sydney suburb of Camperdown. Described by the fast-food company as a “lab”, it will serve as a test run for new menu items. It is the only one of its kind in Australia. The staff are dressed in chambray shirts and dark jeans. The hipster touches include tiled walls and an herb garden – and the food is served on wooden sandwich boards. The only McDonald’s branding evident is a tiny “McCafe” logo in small font on the takeaway bags. The logo is minuscule on the sign outside, which in black lettering on a white background proclaims The Corner. Cold drip coffee, quinoa salads and pulled pork are on the menu.

JD Wetherspoon plans 200 new openings: JD Wetherspoon is to open 200 new pubs and create 15,000 jobs during the next five years. The company is to invest more than £400 million developing its new pubs across the UK and Republic of Ireland. At present, Wetherspoon operates 931 pubs and employs more than 34,000 staff. The new jobs will be spread across the 200 new pubs, together with extra staff recruited for the company’s existing pubs and head office. Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “We are looking forward to opening the new pubs, many of which will be in areas where Wetherspoon is not yet represented. We are proud to be creating so many new jobs. Wetherspoon paid more than £600 million in taxes in our last financial year and this will rise to approximately £1 billion in the course of the next five years.”

Street food operator opens Nottingham deli: Former street food operator Tim Carr, a chef who also used to cook for royalty, and wealthy clients of London diamond cartel De Beers, has opened a deli in Nottingham. The chef specialises in local produce at the business, Tim’s Kitchen, in Fletcher Gate – his street food business carried the same name. He said: “Using great ingredients, I want to produce really good-quality food for people working in and visiting Nottingham.”

JW Lees sets sights on £100m turnover: JW Lees grew sales by 6.2% in the year to 31 March 2014 to a record level of £62.9m whilst Ebitda was £7.5m, down from £7.9m in 2013, a fall of 4.1%. The Manchester brewer and pub operator bought two new tenanted pubs, The Old Station in Llandudno and The Ship in Haskayne, during the year as well as opening its second managed Duttons café bar in Albert Square opposite the Town Hall in Manchester. Seven bottom-end pubs and the last of the company’s two pubs in France were sold during the year. JW Lees was awarded the 2013 Manchester Evening News Business of the Year as well as being a finalist in the 2014 EY Entrepreneur of the Year and the PWC 2014 Private Business Awards. William Lees-Jones, the sixth generation managing director of the family business, said: “It’s been another great year for JW Lees and, although our profits have dipped a little, we are maintaining an average compound annual growth rate of 8.3% in Ebitda over the last five years as well as reducing our gearing to its lowest level in recent history. It is a great privilege to lead the JW Lees team and I would like to thank colleagues for their outstanding contributions, which resulted in 449 people sharing in our first ever company-wide profit-share as well as welcoming our first formal graduate trainee intake in September 2014. We are now actively looking to grow the company to £100m in sales over the next few years and see great opportunities for adding quality pubs to both our managed and tenanted estates.”
‘Slightly larger’ micro-pub opens in Nottingham city centre: The first micro-pub, The Barrel Drop, has opened in Nottingham city centre, occupying a site in Hurts Yard. It offers 11 cask ales from around the country – and describes itself as “slightly larger” than the normal micro-pub. Chris Farman, who is originally from Scotland, is the owner of the pub and opened it after visiting Nottingham to see friends and spotting “a gap in the market”. “It’s about creating somewhere that’s nice and relaxed,” he said. “It’s niche – it’s a beer festival in your front room. That’s what we want to achieve. People can come in on their own or with friends, and chat and relax. It seems to be working – the feedback has been really positive, people say it’s what Nottingham has needed and it’s been very positive. We’ve been extremely busy since it opened. We will always have a local ale on and the rest will be from all around the UK – we want to give people as wide a variety as possible so we’ll have different styles and strengths on and people can try different breweries.” Farman has been working in the industry since he was 18 and has spent the last ten years working for a national beer company. He added: “Real ale has always fascinated me. I didn’t want to be with a big company any more so decided to set up an independent. We have decided to go for a traditional cask bar because we are slightly larger than the normal micropub. Usually micro pubs are out of town.”
Martin Pugh replaces Mark Jones as Rank bingo boss: Rank Group has announced the appointment of Martin Pugh as managing director of Mecca Bingo, the UK operator’s bingo business division. The former Camelot UK managing director, will be tasked with leading Rank Group’s new bingo strategy across its 93 retail clubs, as well as looking for new opportunities to open three new Mecca Bingo locations. Rank Group has restructured its retail management operations, after Grosvenor Casino managing director Philip Urban departed the company to join pub retailer Mitchells & Butlers as chief operating officer – he was replaced by Mark Jones, who previously headed the bingo division. Henry Birch, chief executive of Rank, said: “Rank is already one of the industry leaders in bingo and, with Martin’s wealth of experience in not only gambling but also marketing and leisure, I am confident that he will help us to bring gaming based entertainment to an even wider.”

Wine Shop UK director banned for 11 years: Nicholas Lomax, a director of Wimbledon-based The Wine Shop UK, a wine investment company, has been disqualified as a director for 11 years for involving the company in a scheme to induce members of the public to invest in fine wines with no provision to supply the wine. Nicholas Lomax’s disqualification from 11 November 2014 means that he cannot promote, manage, or be a director of a limited company until 2025. The disqualification follows investigations by a specialist team of the Insolvency Service, whose involvement commenced with the winding up of the company, for debts owed to an investor in TWS. The investigation uncovered that between 15 April 2011 and 29 October 2012, the company ‘sold’ fine wines as an investment and provided receipts and confirmation of ownership documents to investors without actually purchasing the wines. Commenting on this case Paul Titherington, official receiver in the Public Interest Unit, said: “The Wine Shop UK was involved in a scheme to deprive investors of their savings by persuading them to invest in a scheme abusing the time differential involved in purchase and supply of de primeur fine wines. This allowed TWS to take investors money and not purchase the product. The Insolvency Service will not hesitate to use its enforcement powers to investigate and disqualify directors whose companies defraud the public.”

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