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Thu 14th Sep 2017 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Aaron Mellor to open Los Angeles nightclub in early 2018: Entrepreneur Aaron Mellor, who runs the largest private estate of bars and nightclubs in the UK, a portfolio of 36 sites, is to open a 1,600-capacity nightclub in Los Angeles in the first quarter of 2018. Mellor, who founded Tokyo Industries 20 years ago this week with an opening of a nightclub in Oldham, plans to open (Dis)Order in the Hart district of the city, converting a former arts space. Mellor is currently seeking regulatory approvals and plans to live in Los Angeles for up to four months while he launches his Californian project. The new US opening adds to Mellor’s overseas ventures. His Boogie In Wonderland event in Heart, Ibiza, is in its second year and sales are up 35% year-on-year – its season has ben extended to Halloween from its previous cut-off point in mid-September. The event has benefited from an overall lengthening of the season in Ibiza, which now begins in mid-May. Meanwhile, Mellor’s Croatian festival island Obonjan, which hosts a ten-week season of “inspiring, creative and restorative” experiences with music, cinema, well-being events, cinema, food, talks and workshops, has completed a second successful year. “It’s been a brilliant year for Obonjan, with sales significantly up,” Mellor told Propel. Last month in the UK, Mellor’s Lost Village festival, held in a forest in Lincolnshire, added 50% to its capacity, selling 12,000 places at an event that moved from its previous calendar position in May. He said: “We added two stages and a night to make it four nights in total. We were delighted to have sold-out." Last weekend, Mellor opened The Theatre Of Impossible below his £3m venue in Manchester city centre. Impossible Manchester launched in June and is set across three floors of a former Bar 38 site in Peter Street. It features a 280-cover bar and restaurant, taco kitchen and “hidden gin palace”. On Fridays, The Theatre Of Impossible will host Boogie In Wonderland nights. Mellor will speak at the Bar and Nightclub Conference, organised by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and Propel, which is open for bookings. It takes place on Monday, 9 October at Bafta, Piccadilly, and will be followed by the Dusk ’til Dawn Awards for bar and nightclub operators at Cafe de Paris in the evening. Mellor will talk about Tokyo Industries’ expansion into experiential leisure. 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

Industry News:

Propel Multi Club Conference open for bookings, Hubbox 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. Richard Boon, founder of Hubbox, which has received £3.4m of external investment, will talk about the company’s journey in expanding to six sites in the West Country, offering better “burgers, dogs and beer”. Multi-site operators of pubs, restaurants and foodservice outlets can book up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele on

CAMRA calls for greater support for British pubs as 28,000 close since the 1970s, ‘Big Beer’ biggest threat to consumer choice: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has called for greater support for British pubs after revealing the nation has lost 28,000 pubs since the 1970s. CAMRA states in its 45th edition of the Good Beer Guide, published today, that when its was formed in the early 1970s, Britain had 75,000 pubs. The number is now fewer than 50,000, with more beer drunk at home than in the pub. While there have been a number of contributing factors to the decline, the guide describes the business rates revaluation introduced this year as the latest “ticking time bomb” to devastate the sector. It said The Baum in Rochdale, CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year in 2012, will see its rateable value increase 377%, while 2015 winner The Sandford Park Alehouse in Cheltenham faces a rise of 181%. CAMRA said the move would only “fuel the rate of pub closures”. Good Beer Guide editor Roger Protz said: “The British pub is unique. It is rooted in our island’s history, dating from Roman and Saxon times. There is no better place for people to meet, enjoy a beer, strike up a conversation, make new friends and put the world to rights. Above all, the British pub, both ancient and modern, has character and an atmosphere that could never be replaced.” Meanwhile, the guide warns “Big Beer” is the biggest threat to consumer choice despite the number of UK breweries soaring to more than 1,700. The guide said storm clouds were gathering as global brewers attempted to stifle that choice, with consumers “deliberately misled” as many were unaware familiar brand names on pump clips were now owned by what Americans call “Big Beer” and might no longer be made to original recipes. The guide also accuses big brewers of attempting to monopolise the supply of raw materials and patent ingredients. Protz said: “First Big Beer buys up a swathe of independent breweries. Now it’s attempting to control the natural ingredients used to make beer. CAMRA was founded to challenge the handful of national brewers that had phased-out good cask beer to promote fizzy keg beer, the quality of which would be laughed at today. I believe we are seeing a real threat to a return to those days – on a global scale. It is most certainly the biggest single threat to consumer choice.”

Hotels ‘missing a slice of the F&B cake’: Hotels are missing out on valuable food and beverage sales by not offering customers an incentive at the time of booking, according to the latest Go Technology report from hospitality management solutions company Zonal Retail Data Systems and CGA Peach. The report, which polls 5,000 British adults, revealed more than half (54%) of leisure customers and 45% of business users cite price as a barrier to dining at a hotel’s restaurant. However, 50% and 43% respectively would consider making a reservation if they were offered an incentive at the time of booking. Almost half (45%) of 18 to 34-year-olds would also be more likely to order room service from the restaurant if they could use their smartphone, with the figure rising to 62% for those who are likely to dine on-site for lunch. The research backs up a growing trend in the hospitality sector, where two-thirds (67%) of consumers would spend more and buy more drinks if they could order using a mobile device. The report also revealed people staying for leisure prefer a more independent approach, with more than half (52%) staying with an independent hotel operator compared with 25% for business customers. CGA director Jamie Campbell said: “Hotels must consider themselves part of the high-street offering and use technology to engage and improve consumer perceptions. Making the path to purchase easier, or improving value perceptions through mobile ordering and relevant incentives, is a key place to start.” Rhys Swinburn, managing director of hotel management system High Level Software, part of the Zonal Group, added: “Hoteliers need to think how they can pitch themselves against high-street operations and incentivise guests to stay for lunch, dinner or enjoy a drink before heading out. Giving guests the chance to reserve a table, coupled with an offer at the point of booking their stay, is likely to have a positive impact on trade.”

SIBA to ensure Beerflex members are enrolled on FSQ scheme: The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has said that from this month all its 500 members who sell beer through Beerflex, a scheme that allows independent craft brewers to sell beer to larger pub companies such as Punch, Ei Group, Star Pubs & Bars and Greene King, are enrolled on to the Food Safety & Quality (FSQ) Standard. Members not enrolled to FSQ will be unable to sell to those pubs through Beerflex. FSQ audits independent brewers, irrespective of size, on factors such as brewing processes, record-keeping, packaging, cleaning, maintenance, testing, beer quality, and health and safety. SIBA said the move was a “huge step forward for improving the professionalism and compliance of independent craft brewers” and also assured retailers they were dealing with “professional brewing businesses”. The 350 SIBA members that currently don’t sell through Beerflex will have to be enrolled on the FSQ by 2020, with the aim of improving the quality and professionalism of members to help them differentiate themselves in a crowded market. A SIBA spokesman said: “This is a big step forward for assuring the hospitality and pub industry that small, craft brewing is professional and compliant.”

Consumers spend more than $181bn globally on drinks from foodservice outlets: Consumers spent more than $181bn globally on drinks from foodservice outlets last year, according to new research by insights firm Technomic. The company’s 2017 away-from-home beverage study showed non-alcoholic drinks are a large and growing part of the industry. There were more than 113 billion drinks served in 2016, according to the report. Although soda and regular coffee continue to drive volume overall, formats such as speciality coffee, bottled water and energy drinks are expected to continue their already rapid growth in the next three to five years. Technomic senior principal David Henkes said: “Beverages account for $1 out of every $5 consumers spend away from home. They are a critical part of the overall experience and, because of their central importance, it is crucial for restaurant operators and their suppliers to understand how innovation impacts consumer satisfaction.” The report said while key attributes such as taste and refreshment still dominate the consumer mindset, they are increasingly looking for more diverse drinks. The report also found diet drinks sweetened with zero-calorie sugar substitutes were no longer perceived to be healthy. Other, more natural sweeteners such as agave, Stevia and honey are among the better-for-you sweeteners capturing increased consumer and operator attention. While brand-name drinks were still critical to consumers – more than 50% considered brand name either somewhat or very important – younger generations tended to downplay brand importance compared with older generations. Pricing and taste remained the top two attributes operators emphasised when sourcing their drink products.

CAMRA names regional winners in National Pub of the Year competition: The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has named the regional winners of its nationwide search for National Pub of the Year. The 16-strong list features a wide range of venues from micro-pubs to street-corner locals and community-run pubs. Many on the list brew their own ale and host beer festivals, music and community events. Regional winners have been selected as the best pubs in their areas by CAMRA volunteers as part of the competition, which culminates in the announcement of the National Pub of the Year in early 2018. The 16 pubs are Central Southern: Nag’s Head, Reading; East Anglia: Stanford Arms, Lowestoft; East Midlands: Just Beer, Newark; Greater Manchester: Wigan Central, Wigan; Kent: Flower Pot, Maidstone; London: Hope, Carshalton; Merseyside and Cheshire: Cricketers, St Helens; North East: The Office, Morpeth; Scotland and Northern Ireland: Bridge Inn, Peebles; South West: Salutation Inn, Ham; Surrey and Sussex: Anchored, Worthing; Wales: Druid Inn, Goginan; Wessex: Wonston Arms, Wonston; West Midlands: Weavers Real Ale House, Kidderminster; West Pennines: Drovers Rest, Monkhill; and Yorkshire: George & Dragon, Hudswell. Each of the regional finalists will now compete in the next round of the competition, hoping to be named one of the four “super-regional” finalists. They are all featured in the 45th edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, which is published today (Thursday, 14 September).

Company News:

Growthdeck withdraws investment opportunity in Oh You Pretty Things: Crowdfunding platform Growthdeck has withdrawn its investment opportunity in champagne and cocktail company Oh You Pretty Things, Propel has learned. Oh You Pretty Things, which operates five sites, was aiming to raise £750,000 to support its expansion and was offering a 20% equity stake in return for the investment. However, Growthdeck has decided to withdraw the offer to its investors. A spokeswoman said: “We wish Oh You Pretty Things all the best for the future but, after a full review, we concluded the opportunity was not suitable for our investors.” Oh You Pretty Things has bars at the Trafford Centre in Manchester, Metrocentre in Gateshead, Trinity Kitchen in Leeds and Intu Lakeside in Essex. Earlier this year, it launched its first concession – Champagne Stories – with John Lewis at its department store in Oxford Street, London.

Tak Tokumine opens flagship Japan Centre: Shoryu Ramen founder Tak Tokumine has opened his flagship Japanese food hall in London’s Panton Street. The 6,000 square foot Japan Centre features a main food hall, three specialist rooms focusing on tea, sake and miso, a 100-cover central courtyard eating area, and demonstration kitchens. The main food hall offers a wide range of fresh, dry and packed goods with a large selection of daily ingredients such as soy sauce, seaweed and freshly milled rice. There is also a Japanese bakery, fruit and vegetable stalls, fresh fish and meat counters, and a homeware section. The demo kitchen offers live demonstrations and a traditional yatai stall, while there are dishes to take away from the main sozai deli counter. Tokumine launched the original Japan Centre near Piccadilly Circus in 1976. He said: “This central location off Leicester Square will be the new home for all things Japanese in London, with our Japanese take on the shop, dine and experience concept. I’m very excited.” Launched in 2012, Shoryu Ramen has seven sites in London and another in Manchester, plus dedicated tonkotsu ramen take-out bar Shoryu Go in Soho and an international site in Japan.

Stevie Parle to open Carnaby pasta restaurant next month for fifth site: Stevie Parle, who operates London restaurants Dock Kitchen, Rotorino, Craft London and Sardine, is to open a pasta restaurant in Carnaby next month for his fifth site in the capital. Pastaio will open on the site of the former Asian fusion noodle bar Cha Cha Moon in Ganton Street on Monday, 2 October. Pastaio is Italian for someone who makes pasta by hand and the venue will be dedicated to the ingredient made freshly on-site. Dishes will include grouse, rabbit and pork agnoli alongside small bites such as a fried mozzarella sandwich and anchovy-stuffed pepperoncini. The 70-cover restaurant will also offer three communal terrazzo tables and feature colourful murals designed to make you “feel like you’re on holiday in Bologna”. It is being designed by Tom Dixon Studios, which has been involved in all Parle’s restaurants. Parle told Hot Dinners: “I’ve been obsessed with making fresh pasta since I first learned to cook. The kneading, resting, shaping, rolling, stuffing and drying of fresh pasta is a skill that takes time and dedication to develop.”

JD Wetherspoon to close Oxford pub: JD Wetherspoon is to close The William Morris pub in Oxford. The company said the venue in Templars Square Shopping Centre would shut in March. A £60m regeneration of the shopping centre, which is owned by NewRiver Retail, was approved by city councillors in July. NewRiver Retail plans to build more than 200 homes, shops, a 71-bedroom hotel and two restaurants at Templars Square, as well as demolish the 470-space Castle car park. Director Charles Spooner told the Oxford Mail: “We will be sad to see the William Morris pub close in March. This is a decision that has been taken by the operator of the pub and we will now be seeking to secure a new operator.” Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon confirmed the company would hand the unit back to the landlord at the end of March.

Kaspa’s to open restaurant at former Pizza Hut in Kent: Dessert parlour brand Kaspa’s is to open a site in Ashford, Kent. The company is converting a former Pizza Hut site in High Street into its latest venue. The space has been empty for four years, Kent Live reports. Kaspa’s offers a menu featuring shakes, smoothies, cakes and crepes. Dishes, which are also available to take away, include bubblelicious sundaes, mango mania sundaes, white choc indulgence waffles, strawberry indulge crepes and After Eight milkshakes. For healthier options, it also offers protein shakes and gluten-free desserts. Kaspa’s currently has 43 sites with another 22 listed on its website as “opening soon”.

Center Parcs eyes acquisition of Derbyshire resorts operator: Center Parcs is looking to acquire Derbyshire-based Forest Holidays, according to reports. Sky News said it had learned Center Parcs is preparing a takeover bid for its competitor as the demand for staycation holidays continues to rise. Forest Holidays has a central support office in Moira, near Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and is jointly owned by the Forestry Commission and private equity firm LDC. It has nine sites across the UK, including one in Sherwood Forest. A spokesperson for Center Parcs declined to comment. Meanwhile, the company has started construction work on its €233m (£212m) forest holiday village in County Longford, Ireland. The scheme, which secured approval last year, will comprise 500 lodges, more than 100 indoor and outdoor activities, a spa, restaurants and cafes, and Center Parcs’ Subtropical Swimming Paradise. The 2,500-capacity holiday village will employ 1,000 staff, with a further 750 jobs created during the construction phase. Center Parcs chief executive Martin Dalby said: “The project is on track and we look forward to introducing the Center Parcs short-break experience to Irish families in the summer of 2019.” 

Middletons Steakhouse and Grill opens seventh site, in Peterborough: Norfolk-based Middletons Steakhouse and Grill has opened its seventh site – and largest to date – this time in Peterborough. The company has opened the venue in St Peter’s Arcade, Bridge Street, creating 60 jobs. The restaurant seats 180 diners on two floors inside, and a further 50 outside, reports the Eastern Daily Press. Steve and Tracy Hutton opened the first site in Middleton, near King’s Lynn, in 2010. The company’s other sites are in Norwich, Milton Keynes, Colchester, Watford and Leicester and the company turns over almost £15m a year.

Conwy-based Parisella’s ice cream brand acquires pizzeria for fourth site: Conwy-based Parisella’s Ice Cream Parlour has acquired a pizzeria in the North Wales town for its fourth site. The Parisella family run an ice cream factory in Conwy, supplying hotels and restaurants in Wales and England, and operates takeaway cafes in Conwy and Llandudno. The company opened its first sit-down site in Conwy in 2014 and has now acquired Nino’s restaurant and pizzeria in Rhos-on-Sea. It will reopen as Parisella’s At Nino’s featuring a 120-cover cafe bar, patisserie and ice cream parlour. Carrie Parisella will also open Sandwich Express in Conwy this month, offering hand-made sandwiches and Lavazza coffee to take away. She told the Daily Post: “I am delighted to have been able to acquire such a household name as Nino’s. I am passionate about building the Parisella’s ice cream parlour brand at Nino’s and elsewhere. I am in talks over other sites that would be perfect for a parlour and would not rule out the possibility of franchising the business in the near future.”

Nottinghamshire-based operators open third site: Nottinghamshire-based operators John Noble and Max Harman have opened their third site. The duo have launched gin bar Gincident in Friar Lane, Nottingham, after agreeing a deal with landlord Project Ferry (No2) through agent NG Chartered Surveyors. The new bar features a “ginventory” of 101 different gins including an exclusive range from Black Powder Gin, monthly guest gins, a range of cocktails, wine, prosecco and champagne, and two premium draught lagers. Noble told Insider Media: “We had been looking for somewhere small in Nottingham for a while, constantly searching the net for commercial property for let.” Noble and Harman also run the Three Crowns pub in Ruddington and BarSix wine and cocktail bar in the village.

Michelin eyes further gastronomy takeover deals: Michelin, which bought a stake in the Robert Parker wine guide in July, has said it is eyeing further acquisitions of similar upmarket, gastronomy brands. Michelin is mainly known for its tyre products but has also run the Michelin guide to top restaurants and hotels for more than a century. Claire Dorland Clauzel, executive vice-president of sustainable development at Michelin, told Reuters that Michelin aims to triple sales by 2020 within her part of the business. Michelin bought restaurant booking website Bookatable in 2016 and in July this year purchased a 40% stake in Robert Parker Wine Advocate – the fine wine guide of influential critic Robert Parker.

Maitre Choux to start expansion next month with Soho opening for second London site: Maitre Choux, the patisserie specialising in choux pastry, is to start expansion by opening a second site in London next month. The venue in Dean Street, Soho, will be larger than Maitre Choux’s debut site in South Kensington. It will feature a spacious seating area that will allow diners to enjoy their pastries with tea, coffee or thick hot chocolate made from a Basque recipe devised by founder Joakim Prat’s grandmother. Prat launched the concept two years ago, which offers freshly made eclairs, choux and chouquettes (empty choux pastry balls topped with pearl sugar). Eclairs include lemon meringue and bergamot, Spanish raspberry, and hazelnut and milk chocolate treasure, alongside regularly changing specials. Prat has worked at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, including Mayfair’s The Greenhouse, where he was head pastry chef, and as executive pastry chef at Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier in Covent Garden.

WE ARE Spectacular hires senior client content specialist to lead expansion drive: Brand, marketing and digital agency WE ARE Spectacular has appointed Kate Rapacchi to the new role of senior client content specialist to lead the company’s expansion drive. Rapacchi, who joins from The River Group, where she led the Co-op food account, will be responsible for managing all client relationships and projects, allowing group chief executive Mark McCulloch to grow the core business and focus on increasing client and industry digital, social media content and engagement needs. Rapacchi has more than 20 years’ client, content and publishing experience and will enable the company to offer a “full 360-degree service”. McCulloch said: “We have achieved way more than we ever thought we would in the last 60 months but now we need to be even more ambitious by hiring world-class people to take us to the next level. Kate joins the senior management team at an exciting time as we develop our clients, offering and expansion to span all sectors.” Rapacchi added: “I’m incredibly excited to join at a time of huge growth and hope to make each client’s experience a superior one.” Recent client wins for the company include Gail’s Bakery, Hollywood Bowl, and Cote brands Jackson & Rye and Limeyard.

Dishoom to stage theatre production at Kensington opening: Bombay-style cafe Dishoom is to stage a theatre production to launch its site in Kensington, west London. Night At The Bombay Roxy, which is set in in Bombay’s jazz age and created by theatre company Swamp Studios, will open the restaurant in the Barkers Building. The site-specific production will run from Monday, 27 November to Monday, 11 December. Audience members will enjoy welcome cocktails and a meal of Bombay dishes as the performance unfolds. The production is set in a jazz cafe in Bombay in 1949. It is inspired by author Naresh Fernandes’ book about Bombay’s jazz age, Taj Mahal Foxtrot. Swamp Studios is led by Ollie Jones and Clem Garritty, who are from theatre collective Kill the Beast, while Night At The Bombay Roxy is directed by Eduard Lewis. Shamil Thakrar, Dishoom co-founder and creative producer of Night At The Bombay Roxy, told The Stage: “I’m delighted we are supporting these hugely talented young artists to bring to life an immersive theatrical adventure that is inspired by two of my personal cultural obsessions – jazz and Bombay.” The first Dishoom restaurant opened in Covent Garden in 2010. It has three other sites in London – in Kingly Street, King’s Cross and Shoreditch – while it opened its first venue outside the capital last year, in Edinburgh.

Merchant Gourmet launches ‘innovative food haven’ in Islington: Merchant Gourmet, the food brand specialising in wholesome grains, pulses and chestnuts sourced from around the globe, has opened an “innovative food haven” in Islington, north London. The company has launched Grain & Graze in Upper Street – a restaurant, shop and space aimed at “exploring and encouraging smart, healthy eating and lifestyles”. Merchant Gourmet is also launching a Facebook Messenger chatbot called Grainbot, which will allow its customers to access menus, videos and other information directly from products and menus by scanning parametric codes using their mobiles. The venue also stages weekly cooking demos, interactive activities and weekly masterclasses, supporting local and national charities and social projects. Clive Moxham, of Merchant Gourmet, said: “Grain & Graze brings the heart and soul of our brand to the high street. What started as a pop-up has turned into an innovative space that will encourage conversations around great food and healthy living. As the number-one pulses and grains brand in the UK, we want to showcase the versatility of pulses and grains, not only to grow the Merchant Gourmet brand but to reinvigorate the category as a whole.”

Ten Entertainment Group reports like-for-likes sales up 3.6%: Ten Entertainment Group, the UK’s second-largest ten-pin bowling operator, has reported year-to-date like-for-like sales have increased 3.6%. The company, which launched its initial public offering in April, saw total sales up 2.2% for the 26 weeks to 2 July 2017, with like-for-like sales growing 0.4%. Group adjusted Ebitda rose 10.8% to £9.4m, compared with £8.5m the previous year. Profit after tax was down 84% to £0.4m compared with £2.5m the year before, due to initial public offering exceptional costs of £3.1m. The company acquired three sites during the period – in Eastbourne, Blackburn and Rochdale. Its net promoter score improved by 43% to 66% (first half 2016: 46%) Chairman Nick Basing said: “Following on from the group’s initial public offering in April, we have achieved solid total sales growth in the first half of the financial year, positive like-for-like sales growth and completed the acquisition of three high-quality sites. The business is well on track to deliver the board’s plans for the full year. I am convinced Ten Entertainment Group’s niche business model remains attractive and sustainable and has scope for further profitable gains. I am especially pleased with the strong start to the second half, with year-to-date like-for-like sales growth now at 3.6%.” Chief executive Alan Hand added: “Our growth strategy remains on track. I am especially pleased with the impressive increase in our net promoter score to 66%, which reflects the improvements we have made to the customer experience over a long period of time. During the second half, we will continue to focus on our plans for growth including further site refurbishments, a long-standing and ongoing focus on the customer experience, and an extension of the trial of potentially transformational back-of-lanes technology. We also aim to engage more with our customers by both improving and leveraging our digital and yield management capabilities.”

Rochelle Canteen founders to open second site: Rochelle Canteen founders Margot Henderson and Melanie Arnold are to open a second site. The duo, who launched the concept in Shoreditch in 2006, will open the new cafe, bar and restaurant this autumn at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The Shoreditch site is set behind red-brick walls with entry via a buzzer next to a locked door that opens on to the grounds of a listed school building that has been converted into studios. Outside the restaurant, rows of home-grown vegetables spring up from planting pots. The menu includes devilled crab, gull’s egg with celery salt, and rosemary-fragranced salad of roast lamb. Arnold told the Evening Standard: “A lot of our influences come from Margot’s New Zealand heritage – our way of thinking about vegetables and salads, for instance.”

Gloucestershire brewer that slipped into administration set to be sold for £50,000: A Gloucestershire brewer formed by the merger of two businesses that slipped into administration is set to be sold for £50,000 to a local drinks wholesaler, new documents have revealed. Cotswold Spring Brewing Co was founded in 2005 and merged with Severn Vale Brewing in 2014, changing its name to Combined Brewers. In its first year of trading as a combined entity, Combined Brewers made a profit of £91,518. However, trading in the region has suffered due to increased competition and Combined Brewers ceased to trade in May this year. Gordon Craig and Jessica Hodgson, of Refresh Recovery, were appointed as joint administrators and in their progress report said an offer of £50,000 from a “local drinks wholesaler” had been accepted to acquire the business and assets, with the deal due to complete shortly. HSBC is listed as a secured creditor of the business and is owed about £20,000. Repayment is dependent on the outcome of the sale. Lombard, which provided a hire purchase facility used by the business to buy equipment, is also owed about £43,000. Trade and expense creditors are owed about £50,000, while HM Revenue & Customs is owed more than £90,000. The administrators said it was likely there would be “insufficient funds available” to pay a dividend to unsecured creditors.

Former Gordon Ramsay chef opens fine dining restaurant in Whitchurch: Former Gordon Ramsay chef Stuart Collins and his wife Frances, who has worked front-of-house at Michael Caines’ Abode chain, have opened a fine dining restaurant in Whitchurch, Shropshire. The couple have launched “modern British food” restaurant Docket No.33 in High Street with a regularly changing menu. Stuart Collins, who has also worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in New York and Qatar, told the Whitchurch Herald: “We’re concentrating on the quality and, with our experience in the kitchen, we think people will travel to eat here. We’re not trying to compete with the options Whitchurch already has.”

Shoreditch-based The Comedy Cafe to reopen in new home this week: London-based The Comedy Cafe will reopen at a new home in Shoreditch this week less than a year after rising rents forced it to close its old venue. The club, which was in Rivington Street for more than 25 years and helped launch stars including Jimmy Carr, shut early this year. QI star Alan Davies is headlining the first gig at its new home, the 100-seater Miranda Room at the Ace Hotel, on Saturday (16 September). Owner Noel Faulkner told the Evening Standard: “Alan used to play the club in the early days, the early 90s when he was just getting established, and he has been a friend since.” Faulkner said he looked at getting a different venue in the city but was priced out of several deals. He added: “London doesn’t have a fringe and you need fringe venues that are step-ups for people.” The club will initially run for three months, with Saturday night gigs and open mic nights on Tuesdays.

Staycity to open second site for new premium brand, in Edinburgh: Staycity, the aparthotel operator, is to open a second site for its premium brand, Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity, in Edinburgh. The site in King’s Stables Road is owned by the city council and has been used as offices, storage premises and workshops but has been vacant since 2009. Inspired by Oscar Wilde, the 19th century Irish playwright, Wilde Aparthotels Edinburgh will feature an arts facility as its centrepiece that incorporates a gallery and exhibition space. This will house art installations open to the general public. While the majority of the scheme is new-build, parts of the historic medieval wall will be incorporated, reflecting its historic past. Wilde Aparthotels Edinburgh will offer apartments together with lounge, cafe, and gym facilities. The development forms part of a wider mixed-use scheme comprising residential and commercial units as well as student accommodation. Work is scheduled to start at the end of the year, with the apartments expected to open in the latter part of 2019. Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity was launched earlier this year, with its first property due to open in London’s Strand before the end of 2017. The concept will be rolled out across gateway city centre locations throughout Europe, with initial sites in London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Berlin.

Leicestershire-based pub operator takes on second site: Leicestershire-based pub operator Thomas Lord has acquired his second site. Lord has taken on The Holywell Inn in Hinckley, which is owned by NewRiver Property Trust. The pub, which is on the junction of Park Road and London Road, was previously the subject of an outline planning application to be demolished and replaced by nine houses but the scheme was rejected by Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council. Lord also operates The Woolcomber in the village of Burbage, which is also owned by NewRiver Property Trust, the Hinckley Times reports.

Signature Living lodges plans for new Liverpool boutique hotel: Aparthotels developer and operator Signature Living has lodged plans for a new site in Liverpool. The company has applied to the city council to transform the former Liverpool Wellbeing and Yoga Centre in Hope Street into a boutique hotel with standalone restaurant in the basement, which would also be open to the general public. It would also feature a reception and eight en-suite rooms across the building’s other four floors. The plans also include the demolition of a garage to the rear of the building to make way for a two-storey outbuilding that would house a further three bedrooms, including one larger family room. Signature Living said it believes the plans are in keeping with the building’s Hope Street surroundings, which are also home to high-end restaurants and hotels.

Wolverhampton-based caterer launches smokehouse concept: Dave Whitehurst, who owns Wolverhampton-based Call the Caterers, has launched a street food, smokehouse and barbecue concept in the city. Whitehurst has converted the former Tap & Ale House pub in Chapel Ash into Street Food Smokehouse. He told the Express & Star: “Over the years I considered various locations from which to build a restaurant business but nothing ever felt quite right so I ploughed my focus into growing the catering and events business. However, when the pub came on the market it ticked many boxes. The price was good and, above all, its location with regular passing trade was something I couldn’t let get away. The visual identity we’ve created for the restaurant, based around a London-style street sign, is one we can easily replicate as we grow and expand.”

Sleeperz Hotels unveils new wing as part of Cityroomz Edinburgh expansion: UK budget hotel operator Sleeperz Hotels has expanded its sister hotel, Cityroomz Edinburgh, by adding a new wing consisting of 43 rooms and the company’s first suites. Sleeperz was granted planning permission in June 2016 to develop Princes House, a listed building next door to its 72-bedroom Cityroomz hotel in Shandwick Place. The new wing is accessible via Princes Street. The suites are the first to be introduced across Sleeperz’ portfolio of affordable design-led hotels in Cardiff, Newcastle and Edinburgh and are aimed at business travellers, families and couples seeking longer city breaks. Sleeperz Hotels chief executive David Myers told Hotel Designs: “Our guests can stay next door to one of the UK’s best shopping streets, in a world-famous capital city, for a great-value price – a formula we’re confident will be successful.” Sleeperz Hotels will open a 120-bedroom hotel above Dundee train station next year.

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