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Fri 9th Mar 2018 - Update: Trade bodies' taxes plea, Lucky Voice, Starbucks and BrewDog
Hospitality trade bodies urge decisive action on taxes: Hospitality trade bodies including UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), have called for decisive action over taxes ahead of the Spring Statement. Their joint letter to the chancellor focuses on three key issues – business rates reform, hospitality VAT and post-Brexit duty. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “With cost pressures continuing to squeeze many businesses and with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU fast-approaching, the time is right for the government to provide decisive support for hospitality businesses. We want to see the government push ahead with its promised review and begin to fashion a regulatory system that supports hospitality businesses and growth. With Brexit on the horizon, the government has an opportunity to address sector concerns around VAT and instigate a duty regime that promotes hospitality businesses as well as addressing any concerns it may have regarding unsupervised consumption of higher-strength drinks.” BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds added: “The business rates burden on pubs is particularly acute. British beer is also over-taxed and, while the duty freeze in the Autumn Budget was welcome, there is still work to be done to protect a great British manufacturing industry. Of every £1 spent in a pub 34p goes to the taxman. We must take action to reduce the cumulative impact on our pubs, which are vital to their communities.” CAMRA national chairman Colin Valentine said: “Pubs need a fair deal on tax to ensure they remain competitive with off-trade outlets like supermarkets, which are better placed to absorb the high cost of taxation. We need to act now to keep the lid on price increases.” SIBA chief executive Mike Benner added: “We need the promised business rates reform from the Conservative manifesto, action on hospitality VAT and long-term thinking about what the duty system might look like post-Brexit.”

Lucky Voice reports 20% rise in bar sales: Karaoke company Lucky Voice has reported a 20% year-on-year increase in bar sales, with a spike in the steady upturn the business has seen since its launch in 2005. The company, which has three owner-operated venues in Soho, Islington and Brighton, reported the 20% increase in both January and February, following a 17% increase in December and an overall 8% rise in 2017. In the past couple of months, Lucky Voice has refurbished its Islington venue and launched a Dubai franchise, its fifth in total to join its Novus partnership in the UK that offers replicas of Lucky Voice venues within its Tiger Tiger-branded bars. Lucky Voice managing director Charlie Elek said: “We are catering for the growing number of people seeking more than just drinks from their night out, making the karaoke element of our bars all the more compelling. The success of our refurbished Islington venue is a good case in point, with extras such as fancy dress and games as well as karaoke.” Elek also said the company was reaping the rewards for catering to the “growing multicultural population”. He said: “Lucky Voice offers the most extensive multi-language playlist in the UK, with more than 9,000 songs in eight languages, including Chinese, Russian and Arabic.”

Michelin-starred chef acquires Dorset hotel off guide price of £1.25m: Michelin-starred chef Chris Staines has acquired the Bridge House Hotel in Beaminster, Dorset, off a guide price of £1.25m in a deal brokered by agents Christie & Co. Staines, who has been executive chef at The Abbey Hotel in Bath for the past five years, has acquired the grade II-listed country town hotel with Silvana Bandini, former manager of The Pig Hotel, near Bath. Originally a 13th century clergy house, the hotel retains features such as stone-mullioned windows, inglenook fireplaces and oak beams. It also offers a 50-cover dining room, a 30-cover bar and restaurant and 14 en-suite bedrooms. There are also 20 parking spaces, an enclosed rear garden, and a large covered terrace accommodating up to 30 guests. Staines and Bandini said: “It is the perfect first venture for us and we are extremely excited to be taking it on. We are going to make some significant changes over the next few months, moving away from the formality of a hotel towards a restaurant with rooms concept and plan a relaunch closer to the summer.”

Starbucks trials digital menu boards to boost afternoon sales: Starbucks is trialling digital menu boards at select US stores and airport sites in a bid to boost sales, especially for the slower afternoon period. A newly remodelled cafe in Chicago, for instance, features a large, six-panel digital menu that shifts throughout the day. The board also highlights Starbucks’ Mercato food line, which is part of the company’s mission to get customers to think of Starbucks as a “fuller dining option”. After disappointing sales in the Americas region last quarter, Starbucks is feeling pressure to find success with new formulas. Chief executive Kevin Johnson told Bloomberg: “We are focused on elevating the Starbucks experience in the afternoon.” Resurgent fast-food restaurants have been pushing discounts heavily, which may be biting into Starbucks’ business leading it to be “more aggressive”, BTIG analyst Peter Saleh said. He added: “They can be more on point and on message with what they want to say.”

BrewDog opens seventh London site, in Seven Dials: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has opened its seventh London site, in Seven Dials, Covent Garden, its 34th UK site and 51st overall. Spanning three floors, BrewDog Seven Dials features a basement “hang-out” and two bars, with 20 beers on tap. It also offers a menu of burgers and wings, with brunch at weekends. BrewDog opened its first London bar in Camden in 2011, adding sites in Shoreditch, Shepherd’s Bush, Clapham Junction, Soho and Clerkenwell. Next month the company will open an 8,500 square foot bar and micro-brewery in Tower Hill. BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “Londoners have an insatiable thirst for bold, flavoursome, unorthodox and uncompromising craft beer and with this new bar we have created a landmark location.” Earlier this month, BrewDog revealed Edinburgh would house its first airport site, which will open in the summer with more to follow. The company’s latest fund-raise, Equity for Punks V, has so far raised over £12.7m from more than 27,000 investors across Europe. It is due to close in October.

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