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Mon 11th Sep 2017 - Propel Monday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Spend in UK hotels, restaurants and bars rises 3.5%: Spending in UK hotels, restaurants and bars bucked the overall trend by rising 3.5% in August compared with the same month a year ago, according to the latest data from Visa. The company’s Consumer Spending Index compiled by Markit revealed UK household spending rose for the first time in four months during August, posting a 0.3% year-on-year increase. Spending rose through five of the eight categories during August, with hotels, restaurants and bars seeing the second-highest growth rate behind miscellaneous goods and services, which includes jewellery, hair and beauty (10.1%). The recreation and culture category saw the third-highest rise in spend (+2.3%), while food, beverages and tobacco saw a marginal decline (-0.7%), similar to the prior month. Despite the uptick in August, Visa said the data suggested household expenditure was on track for its weakest calendar year of growth since 2013. Kevin Jenkins, UK and Ireland managing director at Visa, said: “Consumer spending in August has bucked the trend of the previous three months, registering a marginal increase against the same period last year. Nevertheless, we are wary about taking this as a sign the household squeeze is easing given the clear slowdown in spending during the preceding three months. The experience economy saw some success last month, possibly as a result of a rise in staycations due to the weakness of sterling. This translated into a four-month high in recreation spending and sustained growth in the hospitality sector.” Josh Beer, of Cambridgeshire-based The Illustrious Pub Company, added: “We had a small dip in revenue in August. The summer holidays wouldn’t be the busiest time for us and, as we are changing our business model to focus on higher quality and slightly more niche dining, we expected an initial dip in the number of customers anyway. One upside to the change is those who have come through the door are willing to treat themselves to quality meals rather than looking for a bargain.”

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Chilango co-founder to present, two free places for operators: The final Propel Multi Club Conference of 2017 is open for bookings. The full-day event takes place on Wednesday, 1 November at the Millennium Gloucester hotel in London. Eric Partaker, co-founder of Chilango, will talk about the highs and lows of creating and expanding an innovative Mexican brand in the UK market during the past decade. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele on

Bar and Nightclub Conference open for bookings: This year’s Bar and Nightclub Conference, organised by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and Propel, is open for bookings. It takes place on Monday, 9 October at Bafta, Piccadilly. It will be followed by the Dusk ’til Dawn Awards for bar and nightclub operators at Cafe de Paris in the evening. Speakers at the conference will include Scott Matthews, chief executive of CG Restaurants, who will explain the success of the company’s Dirty Martini cocktail brand in the late-night market, its USPs, approach to staff training and marketing, regional expansion and future prospects. Jamie Campbell, who heads up the retail business at CGA, will reveal details of usage, areas of growth, food and drink trends and evolution within the UK bar and nightclub market. Meanwhile, ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls will talk to John Gaunt, of John Gaunt Solicitors, Toby Smith, of Novus Leisure, Nick Griffin, chief executive of Pleisure, Terry Pullen, chief executive of Sugar Hut, Robert Humphreys, vice-chairman of Best Bar None, and Rommel Moseley, director of business development and partnerships at Drinkaware, about the current trading and regulatory regime. For the full schedule, click here. Tickets for the Bar and Nightclub Conference are £89 plus VAT for operators who are ALMR members and £129 plus VAT for non-ALMR members. Supplier tickets are £165 plus VAT for ALMR members and £225 plus VAT for non-ALMR members. For the Dusk ’til Dawn Awards, tickets are £150 plus VAT for ALMR members and £195 plus VAT for non-ALMR members. Tickets for both events can be booked by emailing Jo Charity at Nominations are still open for the Dusk ‘til Dawn Awards. For details, click here

Shepherd’s Bush ‘container city’ plans rejected: Plans for a new “container city” featuring cafes, restaurants and artists’ studios on a site beside Shepherd’s Bush Market have been rejected by Hammersmith and Fulham Council. A £150m plan to build luxury flats on the site also previously collapsed when developers Orion Land & Leisure and the U+I Group failed to secure a compulsory purchase order on a slice of land in Goldhawk Road required to complete their building site. The plan for the original one-acre development site would have added an extension to the 103-year-old Shepherd’s Bush Market housed in 74 glass-fronted shipping containers, which would be open until 10pm at weekends. The plans horrified some market traders, who claimed the new site would steal their custom, while more than 183 residents also objected to the plans, fearing the development would cause chaos in surrounding streets. Similar examples of “container architecture”, including Pop Brixton and Boxpark sites in Shoreditch and Croydon, have proved a success and last month plans for a similar attraction in Camberwell were unveiled. A spokesman for the plans told the London Evening Standard: “The overall strategy for our proposals is to start to ensure Shepherd’s Bush becomes a hub of cultural diversity and artistic talent. Our plans are a trigger to really raise the profile of the existing market so footfall is encouraged and Shepherd’s Bush Market is a destination market once more.”

VisitEngland launches campaign to encourage young staycationers: VisitEngland has launched a tourism campaign aimed at inspiring young Britons to take their holidays in the UK. Statistics show 16 to 34-year-olds took almost 1.4 million fewer holidays at home last year compared with a decade ago. The £2.5m “Join the World – Discover the UK” campaign is targeting this “lost generation” using overseas social media influencers. The campaign is being run in partnership with the national tourism organisations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The campaign includes five short films promoted across Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and digital billboards throughout the UK. The move is part of a government campaign looking to generate more than one million additional overnight stays and an £80m boost to the economy. VisitEngland chief executive Sally Balcombe said: “We want young people to take a new look at the sheer diversity and quality of activities and experiences on our doorstep and inspire them to book a short break, boosting seasonal tourism and spreading its economic benefits across the UK.”

Jamie Rollo – hotel market in London responded quite differently after terrorist attacks compared with other cities: Morgan Stanley leisure analyst Jamie Rollo has noted the resilient performance of the London hotel market in the wake of terrorist attacks compared with other major cities. He said: “Initial reactions to these tragic events vary widely – some cities saw a sharp immediate revpar drop in the month following the attack (for example, New York down 30% to 40% following 9/11, Brussels 2016 down 30%), while others only experienced a more moderate drop (-5% for Paris after January 2015 and London after 2005). Clearly the magnitude of the events and the authorities’ response dictate this to a large extent. The worst point tends to be reached as soon as the second month following the attack (circa -20%, except London 2017) and the recovery usually starts in month three, although many cities, usually the ones with the initial moderate reactions, will experience relapses over the year following these events. After the various attacks in London earlier this year, the market seems to be behaving quite differently to others. Revpar was already growing strongly due to the benefit of the weak pound, and growth continued to be strong for several months after the attacks. Recently, London revpar has slowed (-0.4% last four weeks versus +8.4% year to date), with occupancy slightly down, likely a delayed reaction to the attacks, but this is still a remarkably resilient performance compared with other cities. While London’s growth has slowed, the UK regions have improved (+4.7% last four weeks versus +3.6% year to date), so the UK overall has remained robust (+3.0% last four weeks versus +5.8% year to date). As a result, we think Whitbread will show a resilient performance at its first-half results next month.”

Turkish chef to reopen award-winning Cardiff restaurant after Home Office lifts visa threat: A Turkish chef whose award-winning restaurant was forced to close after his visa was not renewed has been told he can stay in Wales – at least for the next three years. Faruk Yavuzel and his brother Ferudan ran Oz Urfa in Cardiff’s City Road. It won the Taste of Wales Best World Cuisine Restaurant award in 2016 but was forced to close last November after Faruk was threatened with a £20,000 fine if he continued working. The restaurant has since been replaced by a burger bar. Yavuzel came to Wales legitimately four years ago on a Turkish business visa and the brothers invested £17,000 in their restaurant. However the Home Office refused to renew Faruk Yavuzel’s visa, saying he had failed to demonstrate he could make a living from the restaurant. Following a campaign by customers supported by Welsh politicians, he has been granted the right to stay in the UK for a further three years and the Yavuzels are now looking for new premises in Cardiff. A friend told Wales Online: “(They) are looking for somewhere in Cardiff to reopen the restaurant and hope it will be open before Christmas. Faruk is grateful for all the support he has had from so many people.”

Keane Brands founder Aidan Keane passes away: Sector design consultancy Keane Brands has announced the death of founder and creative director Aidan Keane. A spokesman for the company said: “The company is coming to terms with the unexpected and sad news. All who met Aidan were struck by his lust for life, boundless energy, creative passion and his addictively charismatic personality.” Keane founded Keane Brands with his wife Louise and managing director Jeremy Scarf in the 1990s and they quickly became an internationally renowned branding and design company. Keane established his company as the go-to agency for clients as diverse as Virgin, Emirates, Jumeirah, Intercontinental Hotels, Jack Daniels, Whitbread, Nando’s, Costa Coffee and Greene King. The spokesman added: “Aidan was not a regular-route designer. He was a former DJ, promoter, owner and legendary club figure, which explains in some way why his vision for his clients and industry was far wider and more exciting than most. Aidan recently turned his hand to TV presenting, fronting Channel 4’s Big House, Little House and he was currently filming a new design show, also for Channel 4. He was, unsurprisingly, a ‘natural’ in front of the camera and was determined to enthuse the nation with his design flair. Aidan loved creating new concepts, designing spaces, and sharing his design passion with all he encountered. Keane Brands will continue to deliver Aidan’s unique and visionary design ethos and the managing team are committed to his legacy through their work.” Keane lived with his wife and three sons in Edgbaston, Birmingham.

Company News:

Greene King boss – pub spending hit by rising cost of foreign holidays: A rise in the cost of overseas holidays is likely to constrain consumer spending in pubs, Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand has argued. He said discussions the company had undertaken directly with customers as well as its managers suggested consumers were feeling the pinch after their summer breaks. The fall in sterling has meant spending money doesn’t go as far in euros as it has done in previous years and Anand said he thought this had been a key factor behind soft recent trading, as well as poor weather during the summer. “The types of things customers are saying is it has cost them more to go on holiday and they had taken out more euros than they thought they would have to,” Anand told the Daily Telegraph. Alongside the return to school, which inevitably throws up things such as uniform costs, Anand said consumers were increasingly reluctant to put more money on their credit cards. The chief executive added that while he was not drawing direct parallels with the run-up to the financial crisis in 2008/09, similar patterns were currently playing out. Anand said the part of Greene King’s food-led estate targeted predominantly at blue-collar workers was the first to weaken in the run-up to the financial crisis and this part of the business was a major factor in the 1.2% drop in like-for-like sales at the pubs it owns and runs in the first 18 weeks of this trading year. To address the slowdown in that part of the company, Anand said Greene King was getting rid of its Fayre & Square brand and repurposing those sites with a mixture of its other formats, which include Hungry Horse and Farmhouse Inns. Shares in Greene King were down 16% on Friday (8 September), with peers Mitchells & Butler, Ei Group (formerly Enterprise Inns), JD Wetherspoon, Fuller Smith & Turner and, most of all, Marston’s all pulled down with it. The trading update was another sign of UK weakness in consumer spending and confidence, ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson said. He expects a return to year-on-year growth for Greene King and its peers this time next year when the World Cup comes into play but said it was “yet another sign the squeeze on consumer spending is hitting company profits”. Jamie Constable, of N+1 Singer, said investors “always raise an eyebrow when a company blames the weather” and said there was also negative read-across in the leisure sector to Restaurant Group. He felt the most worrying aspect of Greene King’s update was reference to the “value” segment being pressurised, effectively referencing the company’s “dominant Hungry Horse brand which looks to have gone ex-growth... is this the next Frankie & Benny’s?”. Constable said the warning further explained why Greene King acquired Spirit – “they needed it!” – and said he wondered whether investors would start to question the sustainability of Greene King’s dividends, which are covered 1.7 times based on free cash flow but exclude expansionary capex as it is discretionary. Investec’s Karl Burns downgraded his Greene King earnings per share estimates by circa 3% to 7% for the current and next two financial years and cut his rating on the shares based on a lower target price of 667p.

Brisbane looks to lure BrewDog to set up Australian brewery: Brisbane City Council has partnered with the state government in a bid to lure Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog to Queensland. BrewDog’s Australia representative Zarah Prior, who said a decision was expected in October, named either Brisbane or Newcastle as the preferred cities to establish its foothold. “Brisbane is a vibrant, growing city interested in collaborating, with an incredible community atmosphere,” Prior said. Anchored by Newstead Brewing and Green Beacon, Brisbane’s craft beer scene has continued its strong growth this year after council approved nine more breweries. It will take the city’s total to more than 20. It is understood Queensland’s Department of State Development is working with BrewDog on an Advance Queensland Industry Attraction grant. Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the $40m Advance Queensland Industry Attraction Fund was drawing investment and jobs to the state. “My government maintains low-tax status compared with other states, particularly New South Wales where they pay much more than Queenslanders,” Ms Palaszczuk said. The Department of State Development has been working alongside Brisbane council’s marketing arm to lure BrewDog to Queensland. The Gold Coast’s Economic Development team has also been angling to get a look in as a dark horse in the race. Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said: “BrewDog would make a fantastic addition to our ever-evolving bar and dining scene, which is growing Brisbane’s international reputation as a lifestyle capital and a new-world city.”

YO! Sushi fined £40,000 over Liverpool ONE mouse and food debris failings: YO! Sushi has been fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 investigation costs at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court after admitting two breaches of the Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations 2013. The company became the fifth Liverpool ONE tenant to be hit with a large court fine this year after Nando’s, Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi, Casual Dining Group brand Las Iguanas and the now closed Red Hot Buffet were also prosecuted. The court was told the restaurant was ordered to close after a routine inspection by Liverpool City Council environmental health officers on 24 February 2016. During the visit the court was told officers found mouse droppings under customer seating benches, behind a display fridge, on shelving near the till point, and under the food preparation counter. Roger Mann, representing the council, said the risks of contamination were increased by the restaurant’s speciality of raw, unprocessed foods being transported to customers via a conveyor belt. He said: “Officers started their inspection in the open ground-floor kitchen and specifically directed their attention to the conveyor belt. It was noted the electrical cabling, counter fixtures and floor surfaces underneath the conveyor belt were unclean with an obvious build-up of food debris and grease.” Sarah Clover, representing YO! Sushi, said the company had never faced prosecution or regulatory action in its 20-year history. She said: “My learned friend referred to Mr Horan using the word ‘horrified’ and it’s a good word to use for the reaction of this company, in particular to the events that have unfolded. It is unprecedented and something they are completely appalled by.” Clover said none of the company’s 79 other restaurants had faced problems with pests on the scale of the Liverpool ONE branch.

SSP Group to make debut in Israeli market: SSP Group, the UK-based transport hub foodservice specialist, is to open two Camden Food Co outlets at Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel, the company’s debut in the Israeli market. SSP will take over running the two existing outlets at the airport on Wednesday, 1 November. One will be rebranded for immediate trading, while the other will be rebuilt for reopening in early 2018. Both outlets will offer a range of local dishes, SSP said, such as Israeli-style breakfast. The company will also offer dishes designed to appeal to an international audience. “With its focus on fresh food and local products, Camden is an ideal brand for the airport,” said SSP UK chief executive Simon Smith. “We are delighted to be establishing a presence in this important market and look forward to developing relationships with our partners in Israel.”

Provenance Inns appoints new managing director: Provenance Inns has appointed Rupert Farquharson as managing director. An experienced hospitality and drinks trade professional, Farquharson takes up his new role as the seven-strong gastro-pub and hotel operator gears up for its next phase of growth. Farquharson was most recently managing director of Norfolk brewer Woodforde’s and, in a 25-year career, has also held roles at Adnams, where he was retail director, as well as with Bass Brewers, Diageo and the Wine Society. Chris Blundell, chairman and co-founder of North Yorkshire-based Provenance Inns, said: “We’re delighted Rupert is joining us. His experience will be invaluable in maintaining the impeccably high service and quality standards that mark out our existing pubs and hotels in the very competitive hospitality market, as well as ensuring we are ready to make the most of new opportunities.” Farquharson added: “The opportunity to be part of this hugely professional team is wonderful. I’m confident we will continue to take Provenance Inns from strength to strength.” Provenance Inns was founded in 2010 by Blundell, a former director of supermarket group Morrisons, and Michael Ibbotson, who stepped down as managing director earlier this year. The company currently has 275 employees and a turnover of circa £10m. 

Japanese burger concept Ichibuns launches in Soho: Japanese burger concept Ichibuns has launched in Soho. The new venue has opened in Wardour Street offering wagyu burgers, buns and ramen. The concept is the brainchild of ex-Nobu head Robin Leigh and former Ping Pong chief executive Paul Sarlas. Alongside ramen dishes, including wagyu beef and king crab, Ichibuns’ menu features burgers (made with a mix of wagyu and prime British grass-fed beef), including The Hokkaido (with grilled red onions, sauteed shiitake mushrooms, white truffle oil and blue cheese fondue), and Panko Meatball (panko-crusted fried beef patty with cabbage julienne, Japanese vegetable pickle, spicy yogurt and curry ketchup). The venue also offers a fish finger burger, which consists of panko-crusted fried salmon fingers, alongside Japanese spring rolls, green tea profiteroles and Ichi Shakes, which include the Sakura Blossom (milk and cherry ice cream with marinated cherries, marshmallows and cherry sauce), Hot Dinners reports. The Ichibuns website states: “Ichibuns channels the raw excitement and energy of the rockabilly-meets-diner culture that kicked and screamed its way out of post-Second World War Japan. In style, taste and spirit, Ichibuns encapsulates the crazy, busy, beautiful birth of modern Japan in all its glory.”

JD Wetherspoon to cut prices on Tax Equality Day: JD Wetherspoon is to cut food and drink prices across its portfolio to show support for Tax Equality Day on Wednesday, 20 September. The move has been backed by the Association of Licensed Multiple Operators and British Beer and Pub Association. Each of Wetherspoon’s 900-plus pubs in the UK will cut the price of all food and drink by 7.5%. The Tax Equality day is aimed at highlighting the benefit of a VAT reduction in the hospitality industry. At present all food in pubs is subject to 20% VAT, compared with supermarkets which benefit from a zero VAT rate on the vast majority of food products. JD Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin said: “There is a huge VAT inequality and unfairness. A reduction in the level of VAT on a long-term basis would create a level playing field and generate growth and jobs in an important and vital industry – especially in beleaguered high streets. Creating tax equality between pubs, restaurants and supermarkets would fulfil many government objectives. It would create more jobs and raise the amount of taxes the government receives since pubs and restaurants pay more taxes and create more jobs than supermarkets. It’s a win-win situation for the government and our industry. We’re aiming to make it the busiest day of the entire year in our pubs.”

M&B to convert Harvester in Grantham to premium steak brand: Mitchells & Butlers is to convert a Harvester site in Grantham, formerly part of the Orchid estate, to its premium Miller & Carter format. The Muddle Go Nowhere in Barrowby Road will become a Miller & Carter Steakhouse early next year. A spokesman on behalf of Mitchells & Butlers said: “From time to time we review our estate and take the decision to convert a business to another of our successful brands. We are planning to covert the Muddle Go Nowhere to a Miller & Carter Steakhouse in early 2018.”

Castle Rock Brewery opens 23rd site: Castle Rock Brewery, the Nottingham-based brewer and pub company, has opened its 23rd site. The company has relaunched the Peggers Inn as the Fox and Grapes – the original name of the Sneinton Market pub when it opened in 1833. The opening follows a jointly funded £200,000 makeover. The pub is owned by Carlton Street Trading and was acquired as a tenancy through The Beer Consortium. It will operate under the Castle Rock Brewery banner. Landlord Danylo Semak said: “We have a varied selection of drinks on offer with cask and craft beer along with spirits, soft drinks, coffee and tea. Our food choices concentrate on pizza, jacket potatoes and simple fare with an emphasis on vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free ingredients.” Last month, Castle Rock Brewery was chosen to supply beer and real ale at the newly revamped Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham. The venue closed in July for a £3.3m transformation, which included the remodelling of the theatre’s ground-floor cafe bar and its roof terrace. The bar will reopen under its new name, Yarn, at the end of September.

Banana Tree to open Chelmsford restaurant next month for ninth site: South east Asian restaurant group Banana Tree is to open a site in Chelmsford, Essex, next month for its ninth venue. The company, founded by William Chow, will open the restaurant at the High Chelmer shopping centre. Banana Tree specialises in food from across the Indochina region and features pan-Asian dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, and also offers an extensive Oriental cocktail menu. Chow told Essex Live: “We were attracted to a place like Chelmsford because it’s a fun city and people like to go out there. However, it does not necessarily have a brilliant reputation for pan-Asian cuisine. There is a distinct lack of ethnic food here and we are excited to bring our food to this vibrant city.” High Chelmer centre manager Mick McDonagh added: “Banana Tree is a really exciting and growing restaurant brand and I’m pleased we’ve been able to help bring them to the people of this great city.” Chow launched Banana Tree 21 years ago in London and as well as sites in the capital it also has restaurants in Milton Keynes and Oxford.

Cafe Primrose to open third Derry site: Cafe Primrose is to open its third venue in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Husband-and-wife team Ciaran and Melanie Breslin founded the company in 2012 and now operate two Cafe Primrose sites in Derry – in Carlisle Road and Atlantic Quay. Now the Breslins are undertaking a major expansion of their brand by opening a venue in Strand Road next month that will create 40 jobs, including chefs, waiting staff, baristas and bakers. Ciaran Breslin told the BBC: “Everything revolves around Primrose so to see the new premises coming together is so exciting for us. We’re constantly trying to evolve the business and stay ahead of trends so we’re confident this will be the start of something new for Derry.” Melanie Breslin added: “Derry has become a real food destination and it’s wonderful to be part of that. Strand Road has been derelict these past few years and with a hotel under construction and two new bars, it’s great to see a bit of life coming back into the area.” Primrose has been supported by the North West Regional College’s Foodovation centre, which nurtures and develops food businesses in Ireland. General manager Brian McDermott said: “Any jobs in the hospitality sector have to be welcomed and this goes to show how vibrant the food and drink industry is in Derry at the moment.” The Breslins also own two butcher’s shops in the city.

Fever Bars opens Exeter nightclub: Fever Bars, led by managing director Mark Shorting, has opened its latest nightclub, in Exeter. The company has launched one of its twin-themed venues, Fever & Boutique, in Mary Arches Street at the site of former nightclub Rococo, which closed at Christmas. Fever Bars director Duncan Squires told Devon Live: “We love bringing new venues to new towns and Exeter is somewhere we have always wanted to be. We are really excited about the opening and the unit is perfect. Our headquarters are in Cheltenham, which is the heart of Fever Bars, and Exeter feels just like that. It feels likes home.” The company currently operates 34 Fever & Boutique clubs across the UK, which feature two rooms catering for different tastes in music – one a retro-chic discotheque for pop and party, while the boutique room pumps out house and R&B music. However, Squires said the Exeter club would be different. He said: “There are three zones including two rooms with two different DJs, so there is something for everyone. There is a smoking terrace on the roof we call The Lost Garden.”

Know Collection to transform Chester boutique hotel with nod to city’s Roman past and present-day party market: North west-based Know Collection is to transform its Bridge Street Townhouse boutique hotel in Chester with a nod to the city’s Roman past. The hotel, which Know Collection acquired in July, will undergo a £250,000 refurbishment to reopen as The Townhouse. The hotel, located in a grade II-listed Georgian building within the Roman city walls, will see 30 of its bedrooms given a makeover using a colour palette of teal, gold and grey. The gym and former offices will be turned into a multi-roomed “Group Pad” aimed at the city’s burgeoning hen and stag party market, with an annexe to the rear of the property available to hire for 24 people. The Townhouse will officially relaunch in November after the first phase of works is complete, which will include a redesign of the courtyard and a new Roman-inspired lounge and breakfast area. Know Collection managing director and co-owner Steven Hesketh said: “We’ve been overwhelmed with the response to The Townhouse since we bought it – we’ve been inundated with bookings and there’s rarely been a quiet day. What we want now is to bring it up to Know Collection standards, making it an individual business with its own unique identity.” The full works are expected to be completed in 2018.

Oak Leisure to open £1.5m Belfast bar and nightclub this week: Ireland-based 1 Oak Leisure Ireland, which operates venues in Cookstown, Magherafelt and Strabane in the republic, will launch The Playwright Bar and Time nightclub in Belfast this week following a £1.5m investment. The 600-capacity venue will open on Saturday (16 September) and cover three floors of the former Fly nightclub in Lower Crescent, creating 60 jobs. Group marketing manager Laura McGillion told the Belfast Telegraph: “We are very excited to bring the Time brand to Belfast along with The Playwright Bar on the site of what was once one of the city’s most popular establishments. We’ve refurbished the building from top to bottom. Belfast is vibrant, exciting and growing in reputation so our intention has always been to give the city a top-quality new venue that everyone will be proud of.” The group also operates the Time Bar & Venue and Lanyon Hall in Cookstown, Johnny Foxes in Magherafelt, and Rubys Nightclub and The Harp & Fiddle Bar in Strabane.

McDonald’s strike video viewed by more than 25,000 UK staff: A video about the McDonald’s workers’ strike has been viewed by about a quarter of the company’s UK employees, according to Facebook data. Labour grassroots campaign group Momentum, which produced the video, said it had been made on a budget of less than £30. Advertiser analytics showed the video has been viewed by more than 25,000 McDonald’s workers so far, The Guardian reports. Analysis of the Facebook shares found half the video’s viewers were aged 24 or younger. The video features two workers talking shortly after McDonald’s staff staged their first UK strike. They discuss zero-hours contracts, rotating day and night shifts and irregular breaks. McDonald’s said those taking strike action represented 0.01% of its workforce, adding that the dispute was related to the company’s internal grievance procedures.

Laine Pub Company launches plastic straw ban: Multiple pub operator and brewer The Laine Pub Company, which is backed by Luke Johnson, has joined the growing number of hospitality firms to ban the use of plastic straws. Laine, which operates 55 venues in Brighton and London, will no longer serve plastic straws with drinks in any of its premises. Instead, its pubs will offer reusable metal straws or biodegradable paper straws. Customers will be asked to pay a £2 deposit on the metal straws, which they can keep or return to the pub for cleaning before they are reused. The move is part of a fight against marine pollution, with single-use plastic waste, such as straws and plastic cups, a major contributor to the problem. The company estimates the change will prevent more than two million plastic straws from damaging the environment each year. Brighton MP and Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas told The Argus: “I’m delighted The Laine Pub Company has agreed to use alternatives to plastic and I hope others follow their lead.” Oakman Inns, Mitchells & Butlers brand All Bar One, The Alchemist, and Liberation Group are among companies that have committed to banning or restricting the sale of plastic straws.

St Austell Brewery named south west business of the year: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has won the 2017 PwC West of England Business of the Year award, which is for businesses with turnover of more than £30m. Independent judges hailed the company’s sustainable growth, its acquisition of Bath Ales, product diversifications, and continued investment back into the business, including new brewing technologies. Collecting the award at Aerospace Bristol, St Austell Brewery chief executive James Staughton said: “We are enormously proud to have been picked as winners from such an outstanding group of finalists. It is a very real honour for all of us at the company to see our efforts recognised and rewarded.”

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