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Wed 15th Apr 2015 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

YO! Sushi and Carluccio’s to begin US expansion in coming weeks: YO! Sushi and Carluccio’s will embark on expansion in the US in the coming weeks. YO! Sushi, which operates 86 restaurants world-wide, is to open two sites under franchise in the US this month – it opens on 22 April at Westfield, Garden State Plaza, Paramus, New Jersey and 24 April at University Town Center, Sarasota, Florida. “The first YO! Sushi restaurant opened in London in 1997, and there are locations now throughout Britain, as well as Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Dubai,” said Vanessa Hall, YO! Sushi’s chief executive. “We realised we were on to a winning formula and that we could replicate the YO! Sushi success story around the world. We’re excited to open in two amazing shopping centres.” The new 1,700-plus square-foot YO! Sushi at UTC will seat 60 guests and the 2,200 square foot YO! Sushi at Westfield Garden State Plaza will seat 75 guests. Along with the first two openings this week, YO! Sushi will in open in Tampa (International Plaza), as well as The Mall at Short Hills, New Jersey, in the autumn of 2015. The new openings represent a fresh start for YO! Sushi in the US after a site in Washington DC’s, under a different franchise partner, closed last year. Meanwhile, Carluccio’s is set for its US debut, opening in Washington DC’s Alexandria Old Town, next month. A job advert states: “We have some amazing employment opportunities at our new restaurant opening this May in Old Town Alexandria.” Carluccio’s has also signed a lease for a 4,559 square foot site at Pike & Rose, a mixed-use development that is opening in phases on Rockville Pike at Montrose Parkway, just outside Washington – this site is expected to open in the autumn. Previously, Carluccio’s chairman Simon Kossoff has said the company aimed to open three initial locations in the region to test out three store styles: two suburban and one more urban. Carluccio’s will also open an eighth site in Dubai at a shopping mall situated within the Arabian ranches community in mid-April, bringing the total to 12 sites across the Middle East. It has also opened its second site in Ireland (at the seaside resort of Glasthule, Dublin) and will open Cardiff (Mermaid Quay), Barnet, London and Cheltenham, Gloucestershire in the next couple of months. Kossoff added: “We are pleased to announce accelerated growth of the business, launching six new sites and expanding both nationally and internationally.”

Industry News:

Propel and ALMR Chicago study tour itinerary published: The itinerary for next month’s Propel and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) study tour in Chicago, sponsored by CPL Training, has been published. More than 40 industry executives will be attending the study tour to visit the National Restaurant Association show and undertake study tours of emerging concepts. The study tours, undertaken in partnership with the insights firm Technomic, will visit Reno, a casual yet sophisticated neighbourhood gathering place with all-day dining, including a strong cocktail/bar programme during all dayparts; Smoque, a traditional American barbecue fast-casual concept; Standard Market Grill, an urban outpost opened by a food retailer to showcase many of its local products; Mariano’s, an on-trend example of a “grocerant,” a neighbourhood supermarket going bold with in-store eateries including an oyster bar, pizza oven, burger grill, sushi bar and coffee/gelato bar; Big & Little’s, a culinary mash-up blending Mexican, Asian and New Orleans influences, as well as signature items such as truffle French fries; Good Stuff Eatery, a “better burger” brand that focuses on simple, farm-sourced ingredients and hand-spun milkshakes; Naansense, Indian food with a “Chipotle-style” offering, customised wraps and bowls with choice of proteins, toppings and chutneys/sauces; Da Lobsta, a seafood-focused fast-casual specialising in traditional and ethnic-influenced lobster rolls: GRK and How Do You Roll, express units of growing Greek and sushi fast-casuals on the Northwestern University Medical Centre campus, illustrating the trend of “foodservice everywhere” and the rising standards of non-commercial offerings; and Intelligentsia Coffee, a local alternative to Starbucks, which claims to individuates by putting its coffee front and centre. Companies attending include Casual Dining Group, Pizza Hut, Beds and Bars, Britvic, Yummy Pub Company, Hickory’s, Amber Taverns, Malvern Inns, PubLove, Bulldog Hotel Group, Frog Pubs, Anglian Country Inns, TCG, Lewis Partnership, and Little Gems Country Dining. Propel's managing director, Paul Charity, said: “Our annual study tour sold out many months ago. We’ve put together the best tour so far, I believe, and have even managed to get a dinner booking at Rich Melman’s Beatrix, a clever re-working of classic US comfort food with understated healthy eating credentials.”
 
Historic St John’s Wood pub becomes estate agency despite protection order: Planners are looking into how an estate agent was able to take over a historic London pub that was meant to be under a preservation order. The Star in St John’s Wood, North London shut last month to make way for Champion Estates, despite Westminster council listing it as an Asset of Community Value to stop it being turned into flats without the community being given a chance to buy it. This was apparently useless in preventing a change of use to offices. Tom Stainer, of the Campaign for Real Ale, told the London Evening Standard: “This is just the latest in a long line of pubs converted due to a loophole in planning law.”
 
Top restaurateur bemoans state of French cuisine: Almost three quarters of all dishes served in French bistros, brasseries and cafes are shipped in from a factory and microwaved, according to a top restaurateur. Xavier Denamur sparked fury after he exposed France as a country of microwave cheats and even went as far as to compare it as being the culinary equivalent of a low-cost airline. The French government is so concerned that it called on two multi-Michelin-starred chefs to draw up battle plans. Chefs Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy have now put together a 20-point plan, but admit that France's global culinary influence "is no longer the same". The chefs recommended stricter criteria should also be introduced on food with a "home-made" label in restaurants, which can currently allow most frozen and vacuum-packed food. Last year the French government passed a law which was meant to force restaurants to label the dishes they prepare from fresh ingredients in their own kitchens as "fait maison" (homemade). But ministers have been forced to admit that the law had failed, as diners had little faith in the new label. The new law was criticised for not going far enough, as restaurants were still able to use ingredients such as factory-made pastry and claim the food was homemade.
 
Zomato acquires database company to expand into payments: The India-based restaurant review service Zomato, which launched in London in January 2013 and is now operating in 22 countries, including the United States, has acquired the data firm MaplePOS to expand beyond restaurant reviews into online table reservations and payment. Zomato, said MaplePOS, now called Zomato Base, would be a database of customer details. It will also help online transactions, inventory management and in generating e-receipts. Chief executive Deepinder Goyal told Reuters: "We are getting into table reservations and online ordering, so you need a very strong hold into the tech that our users need." Goyal said the company was rolling out a pilot for online ordering and would expand it to all Indian users by next week. He did not say how much Zomato paid for MaplePOS.
 
Green Party calls for VAT cut to 5% for hospitality sector: The Green Party has published its manifesto, calling for a hospitality VAT cut to 5%. The manifesto also commits the party to introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol of 50 pence and an increase in alcohol duty.

London Markets Direct launches on Crowdcube: London Markets Direct.com has launched a fund-raising drive on Crowdcube, and is looking to raise £100,000 in return for 10% of its equity. The pitch says: “[We are] an e-commerce retail outlet enabling retail access to fresh produce from the heritage wholesale markets of Smithfield, Billingsgate and New Covent Garden. Tapping into the £8bn online food and drink market and increased consumer quality and pricing awareness trend they allow the purchase of meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables from one outlet at up to 50% less than supermarket prices with free delivery. Our e-commerce access and free delivery provides convenience with an upscale experience. We will be the first company of this type, giving us significant first-mover advantage.”

Company News:

Caffe Nero set to open a dozen new sites under franchise in the UAE: Caffe Nero has reported “robust growth” in the UAE in 2015, with six new stores scheduled to open in the first half of the year in prominent locations across the country, operated by exclusive franchisee Al Tayer Group – and another six or so in the second half of 2015. New stores are set to open in prominent locations across the UAE including The Palm Jumeirah, Sheikh Zayed Road, Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi, Sahara Centre in Sharjah, amongst others. “We’ve taken our time to develop and test the new design to establish Caffe Nero as the stand out artisan coffee house, and whilst the quality of our award-winning coffee has always been recognised, we now think that our rustic coffee house design will differentiate us from the rest,” said David Singleton, vice president of hospitality, Al Tayer Group. “We’re operating in a fast growing competitive market and we have to make a difference to support our growth program. The new look in The Dubai Mall has been very well received and we’re now set to open six by the summer with a similar number in the pipeline for the following seven to eight months.”

McDonald’s introduces Artisan Grilled Chicken: McDonald’s has begun the roll-out of “Artisan Grilled Chicken” in the US using ‘ingredients customers recognise’. The company stated: “Responding to customer’s desires for a great tasting grilled chicken filet with simple ingredients, McDonald’s USA introduces new Artisan Grilled Chicken, freshly prepared in our restaurants. Artisan Grilled Chicken will begin rolling out across all McDonald’s US restaurants replacing all grilled chicken entrees including Grilled Chicken Deluxe Sandwiches, Premium McWraps, Snack Wraps and Premium Salads. The new Artisan Grilled Chicken filet is prepared with ingredients customers recognise from their own kitchens, like parsley, garlic and salt. Compared to the previous grilled chicken recipe, the new Artisan Grilled Chicken filet has fewer ingredients and no longer includes sodium phosphates, a type of salt that helps retain moisture.”

PizzaExpress applies to open at Punch Taverns site in Ludlo
w: PizzaExpress has applied to open a new site at the Punch Taverns-owned Marches pub and restaurant, formerly the George Inn, in Castle Square, Ludlow, Shropshire. Punch has been looking for a new tenant to take over for some months. The company has applied to Shropshire Council for a premises licence for the business, which will be known as PizzaExpress at The Marches. The application seeks permission to serve alcohol from 11am to midnight Monday to Sunday, with non-alcoholic drinks available to 12.30am.
  
Faucet Inn closes iconic Camden venue: Faucet Inn, the multi-site operator led by Steve Cox, has closed the Black Cap in Camden, North London, a well-known drag cabaret venue, A campaign to have it recognised as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) was successful last Wednesday, but the Black Cap closed on Sunday. Supporters of the Black Cap fought hard to keep it open after a number of attempts to turn the venue into flats. In January, when Camden Council gave notice it was “minded to approve” plans for a residential redevelopment of the building’s first, second and third floor. However, these plans were rejected by the council in February after a concerted effort from campaigners and some senior councillors. Michael Webb, of Camden Council, said the Black Cap "has had iconic status for Camden’s gay community since the 1960s as a place to meet and socialise. It is no ordinary gay pub as it also plays an important cultural role as a renowned venue for drag and cabaret performances.” In a statement, Faucet said: "Faucet Inn Limited regrets to announce that it is no longer able to operate the Black Cap in Camden, London; a site it has operated on behalf of the freeholder for the last five years. The building, which was exchanged by the freeholder in December last year, will complete imminently, which has meant the site has had to be closed. Faucet Inn thanks its loyal customers over the time it has operated the site and regrets the impact on the LGBTQI community of the closure of the venue. This historical venue has long been recognised as an important part of the LGBTQI community and its significant contribution to many performers on the London and international cabaret circuit."
 
Arkell’s submits plan to create one viable pub out of two it owns in village: The Swindon-based brewer and retailer Arkell’s has submitted a plan to create one viable pub out of two, creating bed and breakfast cabins at its Royal Oak pub at Bishopstone. The company, which bought the neighbouring pub, the True Heart Inn, last month, revealed its plans for both at an exhibition last week. It wants to extend the life of its existing business, the Royal Oak, by expanding its car park using space available at the rear of the True Heart. The company says a new restaurant will also be built to transform the Royal Oak. Arkell's plans to sell the existing True Heart building with planning consent as a residential home. Ian Thompson, chairman of the parish council, said: “In my personal view it’s a win-win. The village would get back more of a community pub and the Royal Oak could expand its business. It would maintain its restaurant and have a bit of accommodation as well. It seems to me everyone wins. Some will be sorry to lose the True Heart. But it’s a moot point whether the village could support two pubs.
 
Geof Collyer – taking top-end leased pub into direct management would drive Enterprise profits: Deutsche Bank's leisure analyst Geof Collyer has argued that building a managed division at Enterprise would drive profits. He said: “If Enterprise took 100 pubs a year back into house to run as managed pubs (20% of the annual average over five years), then it could drive a proforma total managed ebita of circa £45m per annum, or £13m more ebita compared to retaining them as tenanted/leased pubs. On a proforma FY’17 basis, this would equate to a 9% increase in profit before tax upgrade. Assuming that [Enterprise] took better quality pubs back into management – defined for this purpose as those valued at more than £750k – then 500 managed pubs would represent 23% of all pubs in the estate valued above this level, or circa 10% of last year’s closing total estate."
 
St Austell hires Jackie Scarfe as people director: The Cornish brewer and retail St Austell has hired a "people director" as part of its commitment to be the South West’s employer of choice in the drinks and hospitality sector. Jackie Scarfe brings more than 20 years’ experience within the human resources sector to the post, having previously held director roles at privately owned and global companies. Scarfe is a chartered fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and was instrumental in last year’s establishment of the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, the corporate ethical standards body. She said: “My role as people director will be to help ensure St Austell Brewery is known as the best employer both in the South West and within the industry. This is a fantastic company and it’s important that its people strategy reflects this to attract, retain and develop the best talent without losing the unique culture which sets St Austell Brewery apart from most other companies.” James Staughton, St Austell's managing director, said: “We are delighted to welcome Jackie to St Austell Brewery. The pub and hospitality sector more than any other industry is a people business and Jackie’s skills and experience will be vital in helping ensure St Austell Brewery’s continued success for the future”.
 
Rooney Anand sells £600,000 of shares: The chief executive of Greene King sold shares worth £600,000 shares on Monday. Rooney Anand sold 74,751 shares at an individual price of 842.46p, for a total of £629,747. After the transaction, Anand was left holding 467,265 shares in the group, representing a 0.21% stake. The shares were granted under the Greene King executive share option scheme and were due to expire on 3 August 2015, the company said.
 
McDonald’s commits to supplying 72,000 football kits a season:
McDonald’s has committed to its accredited club kit scheme, which will provide around 72,000 football kits to teams in the UK annually, for another three seasons. The partnership, which will be run in conjunction with the four home nation football associations, will enable 6,200 accredited football teams to claim a new kit each year for the next three years. In 2015 alone, 72,000 kits will be distributed to footballers throughout the UK. The McDonald’s accredited club kit scheme is part of McDonald’s 13-year commitment to grassroots football support. Sir Geoff Hurst, director of football at McDonald’s, said: “The McDonald’s accredited club kit scheme offers grassroots clubs throughout the UK the opportunity to provide their teams with some of the best playing kit around. Last year, we were overwhelmed with the response that it received, over 90 %of eligible clubs in the UK redeemed kit and this year we want to see that figure rise. Grassroots clubs invest an incredible amount of time to providing their local communities with footballing opportunities and it is so important that we support them in as many ways as possible to help them raise the standards of football that they offer.”

Abingdon freehold in Kensington sold for £5.6m: Spanish investors have bought the freehold of 54 Abingdon Road, Kensington, West London, containing the Abingdon restaurant on the ground floor and basement levels, for £5.6m, providing a 3.5% net initial yield, through Coffer Corporate Leisure. The sale, on behalf of the private individual, involved the disposal of the freehold interest subject to a new 25 -year lease on the restaurant from completion with index-linked growth throughout the term. The upper parts contain two luxury three-bedroom apartments, both of which were sold with the benefit of vacant possession. Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “This property lies in an excellent location. We were inundated with interest from a range of investors from an eclectic mix of high net worth individuals, both overseas and the UK, to property companies and institutional funds. The market for assets of this type is the most buoyant I have ever seen it. It’s a great time for long term property holders to consider taking advantage of this strong market." Bilfinger GVA acted for the private purchaser.

PizzaExpress trialling new cheaper lunchtime express menu: PizzaExpress is trialling a new lunchtime express menu, a local newspaper, the Bromsgrove Standard, has claimed. The "express" menu, which offers smaller lunch-sized dishes ranging from £3.45 to £5.95, has already started attracting twice the amount of customers in the middle of the day at the Bromsgrove branch since it launched at the start of April, the newspaper said. It reported: “The menu had a lot of the same classic dishes as the evening had but offered more friendlier-sized portions which were quicker to eat, less expensive and did not leave you over-full.” Ami Kokoska, the restaurant's assistant manager, said the new menu had been going very well since its launch on 1 April. She told the newspaper: "Before, during lunchtime we would only have one or two tables taken, but now, while we are still not as busy as we would like to be, it has really picked up. We have a lot more lighter choices ready for summer and because everything is available for take-out, it has really been encouraging people in."
 
Wrap it Up – Adobo Mexican deal adds 32% to store revenue, founders staying on: Wrap it Up has reported that the founders of Adobo Mexican, the operator of sites in Holborn, Green Park and Victoria, London that it acquired this week, will stay on. The company said on Crowdcube: “We have acquired Adobo Mexican. We will convert their three London stores into Wrap It Up stores. This is great news for the company and this is a model we've used before where we acquired Flying Burrito and its three sites in 2013. The deal is for a cash sum (undisclosed) and a share amount of 2% in Wrap It Up, with the cash element being paid by franchisees who take the sites. Adobo co-founders Craig Fraser and Mark Walker will stay involved, Craig in an operations capacity and Mark in a franchising capacity, which is fantastic as they come with a wealth of experience. The deal will result in a 32% increase in overall store revenue.”
 
Entrepreneurs make £700,000 co-investment in second Spirit Leased site: Entrepreneurs Chris Lyons and Aiden Conway have made a £700,000 co-investment with Spirit Leased at venue in Bicester, Oxfordshire, the King’s Arms Hotel, their second Spirit site. The old coaching inn has received a complete makeover internally and externally, an extended restaurant area and revamped boutique bedrooms. The pub’s menu has also been "re-invented" to provide a mixed British and European food offer. Spirit Leased Pubs' managing director, Chris Welham, said: “The end result of the transformation at the King’s Arms is a magnificent venue that both the licensees and locals can be proud of. I’m confident that this is a venue that will be competing for awards in the very near future.”

Greene King gains planning consent to open £3m Farmhouse Inn in Swindon: Greene King has been granted planning permission for a £3m new-build Farmhouse Inn pub-restaurant at the former Vygon site, off Thamesdown Drive, Swindon Gateway, North Swindon. The company said one of the key factors in choosing the site was because it is close to the A419, as well as being close to homes. The new building will be two storeys high, with staff accommodation on the first floor. It is expected to bring approximately 70 full and part-time jobs to the local area.
 
Ali Barzin secures second site, Star Pubs and Bar lease: Ali Barzin has secured his second site, the Princess Victoria, just off Kensington High Street, West London, through the property agent Davis Coffer Lyons off an asking price of £150,000. The pub is held on the remainder of a 25-year Star Pubs & Bars lease from January 2008. It underwent an extensive decorative refurbishment in March 2014. Barzin has operated the Duke of Kendal public house in Connaught Village, near Marble Arch, Central London for around seven years. Chris Bickle, associate director at Davis Coffer Lyons said: “The Princess Victoria benefits from an excellent location in a sought after pocket of West London. A major attraction is the proximity to High Street Kensington. Our clients have worked hard to lay the foundations of a solid business, which we are certain will flourish as it is developed by the new owner. This project led to a huge amount of interest from a wide range of operators, which demonstrates the continued popularity of pubs such as this as well as the buoyancy of the overall London pub market.”
 
Leicester restaurateur opens third site, world buffet venue in Loughborough: The owner of two Indian restaurants in Leicester has opened a world buffet venue in The Rushes, Loughborough seating 220. 108 World Buffet, opened by Rakhal Paul, has opened in the former Bar Sport in the town, which has been empty for three years. The restaurant will cook dishes including American, Indian, Mediterranean and Chinese cuisine. Paul, who owns the Tamarind and Namaste restaurants, both in Hinckley Road, Leicester, said: "I’m delighted to be opening 108 World Buffet and bringing a new concept and dining experience to the town. As well as modern surroundings and a range of freshly-prepared food, guests will be able to enjoy an open performance cooking section." The new venture was financed by NatWest.
 
Ellesmore Port nightclub ordered to close until June after police use new powers: A nightclub in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire has been ordered to remain closed until June following a string of serious incidents including drug use and violence. Chester magistrates’ court imposed a three-month closure order on Club Xes, on Whitby Road, which will see the club’s doors shut until 24 June. It came after police used new powers under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to issue an initial closure notice at Club Xes on 1 April. At the court hearing, a dossier of uncontested evidence was submitted by the force which included details of 19 incidents between March 2013 and March 2015. Barry Holland, the club’s solicitor, told the Liverpool Echo: “We will be working with Cheshire police in the hope we can improve the situation to such a degree that the police will be happy for us to re-open.”

New-build pub for the south of Cambridge given go-ahead: Plans for a new pub serving the south of Cambridge, submitted by a commercial developer, has been given the go-ahead despite fears over noise. Cambridge Council's licensing sub-committee ranted a premises licence for the Queen Edith pub in Wulfstan Way. A small number of people had asked for the pub to have its opening hours restricted to 11pm, given it is surrounded by a residential area. including some old people's homes. But the committee decided to grant the pub's application in full, allowing it to open until midnight from Monday to Thursday and until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights. One local councillor and committee member, George Pippas, said: " We have been waiting for many years to have a pub around here so it will be good to have one again for the community."

Premier Inn acquires Bude hotel: A vacant hotel in Bude, North Cornwall is to be converted into a 55-bedroom Premier Inn after it was sold out of administration. The Whitbread-owned Premier Inn Hotels has acquired the 36-bedroom Strand Hotel from AlixPartners, the administrator of Property Edge Lettings Ltd. The commercial property group Lambert Smith Hampton sold the property on behalf of the administrators. Philip Gibson, director of the LSH hotel team, said: "Bude is an area that qualifies for the Business Premises Regeneration Allowance scheme that enables enhanced capital allowances to be claimed when converting or renovating commercial premises and this assisted the sales process. Premier Inn will be a welcome addition to the Bude accommodation stock." The hotel's contents were sold separately. The nearest existing Premier Inn to Bude is in Bodmin, 28 miles away.

Walsall bookmakers to become cocktail bar: A former betting shop in Bridge Street, Walsall is to become a cocktail bar under the name Makoto. MV Leisure has taken an eight-year lease on the 3,766 sq ft ground floor unit, and is currently converting it, after winning planning permission. The bar is due to open at the end of May. MV Leisure director Bobby Purba said: "Makoto Bar will offer an eagerly awaited fresh and stylish alternative to the town’s bar and nightlife scene. The focus is on being inclusive and not exclusive. We have ensured that there is something for everyone." James Mattin, managing partner of the letting agency for the unit, Bond Wolfe, said: "Major investment will go into this substantial unit and this will provide a fresh destination for customers in the town centre. Walsall town centre has suffered during the recent downturn but there is definite signs of life and improvement and this deal is testament to that."

Camden Town Brewery wins Marks and Spencer listing: Camden Town Brewery, the North London brewer that has raised £2,358,000 on Crowdcube, has won a listing at Marks & Spencer. The company said: “You can now bring the taste of Camden Town Brewery home in fours: our first-ever four-pack is now available through more than 350 M&S stores, nationwide. Next time you’re out shopping at your local M&S, choose between our flagship beer, the sharp, crisp Hells Lager (4.6% abv), or our Pale Ale (4% abv) – a bold and hoppy crowd-pleaser loaded down with citrusy American hops."

Inception Group reports unprecedented interest in new Cahoots site: Inception Group, founded by Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling, has reported unprecedented interest in its new late-night bar, Cahoots in Soho, Central London. The bar has set new records for the amount of interest and bookings generated in the short period since its launch. Cahoots aims to transport guests back in time, to the post-war 1940s and to a disused underground Tube station featuring dazzling cocktails, swing dancing and sing-a-longs around an old piano. In the three weeks since it opened on 4 March it has attracted 24,314 sign-ups to its website. Its sister venue, Bunga Bunga, has 8,500 sign-ups after three years of highly successful trading. The launch video has also had 58,800 views since its first airing on 5 March. Cahoots was also voted by Hardens, one of the most established hospitality industry guides, as the top trending venue on Twitter, and its social media statistics for a new venue are also impressive with 6,079 Facebook likes, 6,259 Twitter followers, and 2,672 Instagram followers.

Mecca bingo hall set to be replaced by supermarket: Permission for the demolition of the Mecca Bingo building in Breightmet Fold Lane, Bolton has been granted by the local council, with an Aldi supermarket expected to be built in its place. Mecca’s lease for the site also runs out this month, though a spokesman for the firm told the Bolton News that it was involved in “on-going discussions" with its landlord, Millfield Estates. A spokesman for Millfield told the newspaper the plan for a supermarket on the site followed “informal discussions” with Mecca last year after the Rank-owned bingo hall operator asked for a shorter lease with a lower rent. “The landlord could not accept the terms offered by Mecca so gave consideration to alternative uses for the site. It became clear that the development of a new foodstore and retail space was significantly more viable. We have since made our proposals to Mecca Bingo so the ball is really in their court. We have served notice on them and are waiting for a formal response – they still have the right to apply for a new lease,” he said. Staff at Mecca only found out about the prospect of losing their jobs in February when letters were delivered to local addresses informing them of proposals to build an Aldi store on the site. The German supermarket chain has yet to submit a formal planning application but according to the Bolton News this could happen later this month, with demolition work starting in November.

Star Pubs & Bars seeks to reopen pub closed three years ago: Star Pubs & Bars has submitted an application to refurbish the Bay Horse Inn, Fence, near Burnley, which closed in 2012. The plans include creating an extension to house an enclosed play area, as well as new windows and doors. A spokesman for Star Pubs, which is owned by Heineken, told the Pendle Today website: “We can confirm that we have applied for planning permission to refurbish the pub with a view to building work commencing this summer. We have interest from a prospective lessee who would want input on the details of the scheme and timing. However, given planning permission we would expect the pub to re-open by the autumn.”

TLC Inns to explore investment options: TLC Inns, the award-winning pub and restaurant operator led by Steve and Jo Haslam, is to explore investment options to allow the company to double its Grand Central Bar and Grill operation. The company is due to open its fourth and largest Grand Central, a 8,500 sq ft site in Ipswich, next week after a £1.35m investment. Its oldest Grand Central, which opened three and a half years ago, has matured into the company’s number one performing site with annual turnover of just under £2m and has taken an average of £45,000 gross for the last three weeks. The company’s Grand Central sites will hit turnover of £5m this year. Steve Haslam told Propel: “We are now looking all possible avenues of funding. This includes the possibility of crowd-funding with the offer of equity in the business.” TLC Inns, which will eight sites once Ipswich opens, saw total sales increase 20% in its most recent year to £5.5m, boosted by a part-year contribution from two new sites. Company ebitda passed through the £1m mark for the first time and like-for-like sales rose 3.6%. Its smallest pub site, the Catherine Wheel, achieved like-for-like growth of 13%. The company re-paid £340,000 of older loans and took out £640,000 of new loans through Barclays Corporate.

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