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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 3rd May 2019 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Ethical food and drink sales hit £8.2bn, forecast to grow 17% in next five years: Ethical food and drink sales hit £8.2bn in 2018, with British consumers increasingly conscious of what they are buying, according to new research by Mintel. During the past five years, sales of ethical food and drink have rocketed 43%, from £5.7bn in 2013. This year sales are forecast to increase a further 4% to reach £8.6bn. The sector’s popularity is set to continue as sales of ethically certificated food and drink are projected to rise 17% to reach £9.6bn in the next five years. More than four-fifths (83%) of UK adults said they had bought food and drink with some sort of ethical certification, with the figure rising to 87% for over-55s. However, cost remains a barrier with 70% of UK adults saying eating sustainably and ethically is harder when money is tight. Free-range (66%) ranked as the most widely bought food with an ethical certification, with Fairtrade second (53%), followed by organic food (30%). Although two-thirds (67%) of consumers are “doing their bit” to reduce single-use plastic, more than four-fifths (83%) think retailers should do more to help. Mintel research analyst Alice Baker said: “Ethical food and drink has enjoyed strong sales growth in recent years but price poses a significant barrier to greater uptake. Products using surplus produce, for example the ‘wonky veg’ boxes offered by various supermarkets, can also be presented both as a financially savvy option and an ethical one to tackle food waste. The recent climate change protests have pushed sustainability high on the news agenda.”

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to give his views on new TRG boss in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will give his views on The Restaurant Group’s new chief executive Andy Hornby as part of his latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (3 May) at 5pm. He will also look at what is in new Greene King chief executive Nick Mackenzie’s in-tray, Toby Smith’s appointment as chief executive of the Coffeesmiths Collective and Laine Pub Company’s move out of its south east heartland. In a new regular feature about leadership, Mark talks to former Wagamama chief executive Jane Holbrook. Subscribers will also receive a 30-minute video on Friday in which Mark Ashley, author of Be Better Than Yesterday and former director of retail operations at Geronimo, who now runs his own eponymous company, gives insights into his unique method of developing and improving productivity and retaining front-line teams. Propel Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out, discounts to attend Propel conferences and events, and regular video recordings of key speakers. They also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has now grown to 1,400 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £345 plus VAT for operators and £445 plus VAT for suppliers – plus £50 each for additional team members. Email

Propel summer conference and party open for bookings, Mark Tughan to present, two free places for operators: The Propel Multi Club summer conference and party is open for bookings. It takes place on Thursday, 27 June at the Oxford Belfry, which is just off the M40. The conference will be followed by the summer party, with an evening barbecue, the Big Fat Quiz and the legendary sounds of DJ Big Lee. Mark Tughan, founder of the UK’s largest comedy club brand The Glee Club, which is in its 25th anniversary year, will talk about the evolution of comedy clubs, fusing comedy, music and special events, and his epic six-year court battle with 20th Century Fox over rights to the Glee Club name. Operators can claim up to two free places by emailing Anne Steele at Rooms (bed and breakfast) are also available at £125 plus VAT and can be booked by emailing Anne.

Other upcoming conferences: The Finance and Investment Conference is on Friday, 24 May. Click here for details. The Coffee Conference takes place on Tuesday, 11 June. Click here for details. 

Food-led operators see drink sales spike in April as wet-focused businesses suffer: Food-led businesses saw a spike in drink sales during April while those of wet-led operators weakened, according to S4Labour, the online labour-scheduling management system from Catton Hospitality. According to an analysis of more than 100 organisations that use S4Labour software, operators saw a mixed sales performance during April. While the first quarter of 2019 had seen resilient figures for food and drink alike, April’s figures saw a weakening of sales for drinks-focused businesses and a growth in drinks sales for food-led operators. Like-for-like sales of food plateaued in food-led businesses, with a slight drop of 0.3% compared with the previous year. However, the same set of sites bucked the national trend of falling drinks sales, with a 4.1% boost in revenue. Wet-led venues, however, saw a decline of 5.7% in drink sales compared with the year before. Food sales in wet-led sites were also down 2.2% on a like-for-like basis. Overall, like-for-like sales were down 0.7%. 

Company News:

BrewDog updates on bars pipeline, rolls out hot-desking initiative, crowdfunding campaign passes £2m: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has updated on its bar pipeline while it has begun rolling out its hot-desking concept, DeskDog. The company has also seen its latest Equity for Punks crowdfunding campaign pass the £2m mark. BrewDog’s next bar will open in Market Street, Inverurie, on Friday, 17 May. On the same day it will unveil the new-look taproom for Hawkes Cider at its home in Druids Street, London. BrewDog invested in the cider producer last year. BrewDog’s next European site will open in Hamburg in June followed by its second French bar, in Nice. Meanwhile, its second brewpub – in Oxford Road, Manchester – is set to be its third opening of the month. BrewDog is also planning refurbishments for its two Leeds sites as well as venues in Japan, Brussels and Oslo. Renovations are also set to take place at two Draft House pubs – Tower Bridge and Columbia Road. Meanwhile, having trialled DeskDog at four sites, the company has rolled it out to about 30 venues, including Barcelona, Bristol, Oxford and York. Remote workers can pay £7 for access to Wi-Fi, unlimited coffee and a pint of Punk IPA. BrewDog’s sixth crowdfunding round, which it launched last month looking to raise an initial £7m with a stretch goal of £50m, has now passed the £2m mark. So far 9,004 investors have pledged £2,041,575, which means the total amount pledged to date through BrewDog’s Equity for Punks campaigns is in excess of £69m from more than 103,000 people. BrewDog wants to use the funds from the latest campaign to open two breweries in China, the first before 2020. It also wants to open a hotel, brewery and museum in London after its first hotel, the Doghouse at its brewery in Columbus, Ohio, “exceeded all expectations”. However, its key focus is to open five brewpubs, in Germany, Italy, Spain and France.

Friska to strengthen Bristol presence with eighth site in city: Independent healthy eating brand Friska is to strengthen its presence in its home city of Bristol. The company will open its eighth Bristol site – and 11th in total – in mid-June. It has acquired a site on the corner of Queen Square and Prince Street that previously housed Caffe Gusto. The store will have seating for up to 34 inside and will open daily, offering the brand’s hot box meals, bao buns, pho noodle pots, burritos, wraps, brunch options and as speciality coffee. Co-founder Griff Holland said: “When we saw this site was available, it was too good to miss. We’re joining several other brilliant businesses in the area and look forward to adding to the growing food and coffee offer around Queen Square and the harbour.” Holland and Ed Brown founded Friska in 2009. It also operates three sites in Manchester. Earlier this year, Holland told Propel Friska would continue its approach to building clusters and, while Manchester and Bristol were its initial focus, Leeds, Birmingham and eventually London were in its sights.

Tortilla reveals 15% rise in internal promotions following apprenticeship programme launch: Tortilla, the Quilvest-backed restaurant group, has revealed its apprenticeship programme has resulted in a 15% increase in internal promotions. Inspired by the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017, Tortilla developed a bespoke apprenticeship programme that upskills employees to enter senior leadership positions. Head of people Nicki Sahota said the scheme had improved crew engagement and satisfaction and become a key recruitment tool. She added: “Before launch, 48% of crew were internally promoted to management positions and we’re now at 63%.” The company currently has 20% of crew supervisors enrolled in the programme and has 100% retention to date. Focusing on developing supervisors and assistant managers in finance, leadership and operations, the programme incorporates various training modules and practical skill applications. Managing director Richard Morris said: “Tortilla is all about people. Whether you’re a crew member rolling burritos on the line, a kitchen supervisor ensuring top-quality food production or a manager running the show – every person hired at Tortilla is a key part of the family.” Following the programme’s initial success, Tortilla plans to use the rest of this year’s Apprenticeship Levy allocation to continue expanding the scheme by adding more accredited management courses and onboarding all new crew to the programme.

Good Food Society to open Italian restaurant at former Yosma site next week: The Good Food Society, led by Levent Büyükuğur and Sanjay Nandi, is to open an Italian cafe, bar and restaurant in London next week. The company will launch Caffè Cinquanta in Baker Street on Wednesday (8 May) at the site of its former Yosma restaurant, which is relocating to Soho this summer. Caffè Cinquanta, which is themed around 1950s Italy, will seat up to 84 guests in the open-plan dining room and ten at the bar, while it will also feature seats on a terrace. Staff, who are all from Italy, will serve a light Italian breakfast of pastries and fresh coffee before switching to the all-day menu at midday. Dishes will feature rigatoni alla carbonara, spaghetti pomodoro con la nduja and zucchine trombetta. Drinks will include classic Italian spirits and wine as well as cocktails. The Good Food Society also operates Aegean-inspired bar restaurant Hovarda in Soho and Ristorante Frescobaldi, a high-end Italian restaurant it launched in Mayfair in 2014 in partnership with the famed wine-making family. Building on these concepts, The Good Food Society said it planned to open a collection of high-end restaurants in London and other cities where “brand awareness is high”.

Greene King launches LGBT+ network: Brewer and retailer Greene King has officially launched its LGBT+ Network, The Village Greene. The network, which has been set-up by employees at the pub company, already has more than 200 members and aims to provide a strong support network that promotes and enhances the LGBT+ community’s experience at Greene King. The initiative was officially launched at the company’s City of Quebec in London, which is thought to be the city’s oldest LGBT+ pub. Committee members set out their ambitions and key priorities for the network, including working closely with the HR team to develop industry-leading policies to support and protect team members, and identifying ways to help the business celebrate and promote its support for the LGBT+ community. Greene King London business unit director Karen Bosher said: “The LGBT+ community is at the heart of our operation and it is a privilege to celebrate the diversity the community brings to Greene King. I hope our team stands up and stands out for equality at every level and I am extremely proud to lead on such an important initiative.”

Burger King launches Real Meals based on moods: Burger King has unveiled a selection of Whopper meals to suit a variety of moods in a bid to promote “authenticity” and the message “no-one is happy all the time”. The Real Meals include a Blue Meal, Salty Meal, YAAAS meal and DGAF Meal – but no “happy meal”, the company pointed out. The boxes have been made available in select US cities – Austin, Seattle, Miami, Los Angeles and New York – featuring French fries, a drink and the Whopper sandwich made from a quarter pound of flamed-grilled beef topped with tomatoes, fresh lettuce, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun. For the campaign, Burger King has partnered with Mental Health America, the US community-based non-profit group dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness, reports the Evening Standard. Burger King chose to launch the range in May to help bring attention to Mental Health Awareness Month. The company said: “With the pervasive nature of social media there is so much pressure to appear happy and perfect. With Real Meals, the Burger King brand celebrates being yourself, however you want to feel.”

Arnaud Stevens reopens Buckinghamshire village restaurant and hotel for second site: Chef Arnaud Stevens has reopened the George & Dragon restaurant and hotel in the Buckinghamshire village of West Wycombe for his second venue. Stevens, who owns British restaurant concept Plate, in Shoreditch, has relaunched the site following an extensive refurbishment. Comprising ten bedrooms, an a la carte restaurant and adjoining bar, the George & Dragon is housed in a former coaching inn dating to the 1700s. The menu includes whole slow-roasted guinea fowl and cod loin with south Devon mussels with homemade sourdough bread. Arnaud, who has worked for Pierre Koffmann and Gordon Ramsay, said: “With the success of Plate, my team and I are excited to start the next chapter. It’s an exciting time and the opportunity to fully utilise the location and produce the beautiful village of West Wycombe has to offer is one we look forward to.”

Fuller’s relaunches learning and development offer: Fuller’s, the pub and hotel operator, has repositioned and relaunched its learning and development offer. Under the banner Designed For Life, the programmes are aimed at all levels of front and back-of-house staff where courses support the Chefs’ Guild scheme. Courses are split into two areas – one focusing on technical skills around safety, retailing and kitchen craft and another focusing on mastering management and creating a pathway for team members to hone their leadership skills, broaden their knowledge and further their careers. Subjects include leadership, sales, people and mental health. In addition, the company has launched a Level Five apprenticeship, the Leadership Exploration Apprenticeship Programme (LEAP), aimed at general managers who want to take on a more complex business or move into an operations or head office management role. The 18-month LEAP course delivers a qualification comparable to a foundation degree and involves workshops and one-to one coaching. For operations managers, a new range of courses and training is on offer focusing on direction and vision, focus and impact. For employees at all levels in the company there are more than 50 online courses on topics such as presentation skills, social media and strategic thinking. People director David Hoyle said: “First-class recruitment and a clear focus on retention are key to our long-term success. This suite of development tools ensures that once we have attracted the best people, we can help them grow with us.”

White Brasserie to open Horsham pub next month: White Brasserie Company, the sister business to Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie Blanc chain, will open its latest pub in Horsham, West Sussex, next month. The company will launch The Red Deer on Monday, 10 June as part of the new £35m Piries Place development. The pub is on the site of a former Waitrose supermarket. The pub, which will open on to Carfax in the town centre, will have a “New York loft vibe”, with a garden, terrace and private events space, reports The West Sussex County Times. The Red Deer will be the only pub south of London to feature Pilsner Urquell copper beer tanks. The Piries Place development also includes the new Everyman cinema and a soon-to-launch Whitbread-owned Premier Inn. In March, Brasserie Bar Co chairman Mark Derry told Propel trading across the Brasserie Blanc and White Brasserie estates had been “solid” since Christmas, with both businesses up in terms of like-for-like sales and versus budget. The group currently operates 19 Brasserie Blancs and 17 White Brasseries.

Belfast-based independent ice cream and coffee shop lines up second site, hints at further expansion: Belfast-based independent ice cream and coffee shop Al Gelato is lining up its second site – and has hinted at further expansion. The company, owned by Alistair Macaulay, has lodged plans with the city council to open an outlet in Ballyhackamore. Macaulay wants to convert an office in Upper Newtownards Road, adding to his venue in Ormeau Road, which opened in 2017. Macaulay told the Irish News: “I planned to expand across Belfast. Obviously I opened the first one in Ormeau Road and gave myself a period of two years to open another.” Macaulay hinted at further expansion in the city and the rest of Northern Ireland. He added: “It will depend on what happens with Brexit. We’ll see how far we can take it.” All of Al Gelato’s Italian-inspired ice cream is made on-site using a mix of fresh local ingredients and premium Italian products.

Former Le Gavroche chef to open French restaurant in St John’s Wood for first solo venture: Former Le Gavroche chef Elliot Moss is to open his first restaurant, in St John’s Wood, north west London. Moss has been away from the UK dining scene for about ten years but is returning to launch modern French restaurant Plu, which means to “have pleased” or “enjoyed”. The venue in Blenheim Terrace, which will open this summer, will seat 22 diners inside. There will also be a terrace for pre-dinner cocktails, reports Hot Dinners.

Malhotra Group to open £6.2m Newcastle restaurant and hotel this autumn: Newcastle-based operator Malhotra Group will open its £6.2m, 64-bedroom hotel, bar and restaurant in the city this autumn. The company is revamping the Three Mile Inn in Gosforth, which is remaining open during the three-phase scheme. The first phase has been completed and has seen the creation of a three-storey extension to provide additional accommodation for the hotel. Work will soon begin on creating function rooms and private dining facilities, along with a lounge for guests, a cafe and bar. The site will also house family friendly restaurant Pizza Dough Co. The new hotel and restaurant is expected to create 75 jobs, reports BDaily. Last month, Malhotra Group reported turnover in its leisure division fell to £9,375,425 for the year ending 31 March 2018, compared with £9,815,056 the previous year.

Burton-based micro-pub operator to open second site: Burton-based micro-pub operator Pete Spittles is to open his second site. Spittles will launch Bodell’s in Swadlincote, Derbyshire. The venue in Belmont Street is named after the town’s boxing legend Jack Bodell and the former Moza HQ Indian restaurant is being transformed ahead of an opening on Thursday, 16 May. Bodell was British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight champion and first trained at a gym in the Royal Oak pub in Swadlincote. He boasted a record of 58 wins in 71 fights, 31 by knockout. He retired from boxing in 1972 and ran a fish and chip shop in Coventry, which he famously got friend and three-time world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali to open. Bodell died in 2016 aged 76 and memorabilia of his career will be displayed around the pub including pictures and boxing programmes. Spittles also owns The Last Heretic in Station Street, Burton, which opened three years ago. He told Derbyshire Live: “The landlord knew I was looking for somewhere in Swadlincote. I looked at three properties previously but none worked out. I was just waiting for the right opportunity.”

Magic Rock gets go-ahead for Holmfirth bar: Huddersfield-based Magic Rock Brewing Company has been given the go-ahead to open a bar in Holmfirth. The company, which was acquired earlier this month by Australian-headquartered food and beverage company Lion, has been granted permission by Kirklees Council to convert a former HSBC bank branch in Victoria Street. Magic Rock plans to use the large safe as a beer cellar. The grade II-listed building has been empty since HSBC closed the branch in January 2017, reports Examiner Live. Magic Rock was founded by Richard Burhouse and Stuart Ross in 2011, beginning in Oakes but expanding to a larger unit in Birkby where it launched Magic Rock Tap. The brewer already exports beer to more than 25 countries and sees opportunities to grow that footprint further with Lion’s support.

Coca-Cola enters premium dark spirits market with new mixer range: Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has launched a range of mixers designed to mix with premium dark spirits. The four flavours have been developed with renowned mixologists following a year-long project, the first Coca-Cola liquid collaboration in its 134-year history. The four mixes include Smoky Notes, which has been developed with Max Venning, of London’s Bar Three and Three Sheets, aimed to complement spiced rum and premium whisky. Spicy Notes is a collaboration with Spanish mixologist Adriana Chia and Pippa Guy, of The American Bar at the Savoy, designed to mix with spiced rum, tequila and spicy or sweet whiskey. Herbal Notes by Barcelona-based Antonio Naranjo is aimed at amber whiskies and rum, while Woody Notes by former Dandelyan head barman Alex Lawrence, goes well with premium vodka. Coca-Cola Signature Mixers will launch to the UK’s on-trade in June, while the 200ml glass bottles will also enter the off-trade. Simon Harrison, vice-president, commercial development at CCEP GB, said: “Coca-Cola Signature Mixers marks an exciting new frontier for the Coca-Cola trademark. By collaborating with experts, we believe we have developed an innovative and unique product range for mixology.”

The Hut Group acquires Eclectic Hotel Group in £50m deal: Online beauty and well-being retailer The Hut Group has acquired Manchester-based Eclectic Hotel Group, which operates King Street Townhouse and Great John Street Hotel, in a deal believed to be about £50m. The two city centre boutique hotels have 70 bedrooms in total as well as offering events space. Eclectic Hotel Group was acquired from founders Eamonn and Sally O’Loughlin, who continue to own and manage Didsbury House Hotel and Eleven Didsbury Park, both of which were hived off Eclectic Hotel Group prior to completion. The hotels form part of The Hut Group’s strategy to grow its marketing infrastructure to deliver “enhanced consumer experiences, influencer and brand-led events, and content creation”. The investment will also be supported by a £10m refurbishment upgrade plan. The two hotels add to the group’s acquisition of Hale Country Club & Spa in July 2016. The Hut Group founder and chief executive Matthew Moulding said: “As a fast-growing, brand-led business we are always looking to develop innovative approaches to drive greater engagement with our customers and this acquisition is testament to that strategy.” Eamonn O’Loughlin added: “While it has been a difficult decision for us to take, we feel both hotels are going into the best of hands with Matthew and his team and we are extremely proud of the portfolio we have built.” The Hut Group was advised by KPMG for financial due diligence, Deloitte for tax due diligence and Gowling WLG for legals. The vendors were advised by Convex Capital and Freeman Fisher.

Sub Cult confirms permanent site in the City: Sub Cult, the US deli-style sandwich concept, has confirmed it will open a permanent site in central London. As Propel revealed yesterday, the award-winning street food concept, which is led by Ben Chancellor and Gareth Phillips, has secured a site in Watling Street for an opening next month. The company has secured the former Barbecoa To Go unit, with plans to open a 14-cover eat in and takeaway unit. Founded in 2014, the business has been operating out of Brockley Market and in various City locations offering weekday lunches. It was also running a pop-up that has now closed at Boxpark Shoreditch. The concept has won praise and collaborations from leading chefs David Muñoz, Tom Sellers, Dan Doherty and Tom Aikens. Sammy Weinbaum, at CDG Leisure, acted on the Watling Street deal.

Carlsberg reports first-quarter volume drop in UK: Carlsberg has reported volumes dropped in the UK in the first quarter but experienced “very strong” growth in Asia. The company’s premium brands all had good volume growth – Tuborg (7%), Grimbergen (4%) and 1664 Blanc (30%). The Carlsberg brand growth of 2% was driven by Asia, in particular China and Malaysia, partly offset by soft volumes in the UK. The company saw craft and speciality volume growth of 18%, with alcohol-free brews growing 15%. Net revenue in Asia grew organically by 15.3%. Total net revenue was up 6.4%, with total volume increasing 3.4%. Carlsberg chief executive Cees ’t Hart said: “We had a good start to the year, with particularly strong volume growth in Asia and continued solid progress of our craft and speciality and alcohol-free portfolios, which improved the price/mix. We are maintaining our full-year earnings expectation.”

Lancashire-based brewer lodges plans for first micro-pub: Lancashire-based Northern Whisper Brewing Co has lodged plans to open its first micro-pub. The Rossendale-based business has applied to Pendle Borough Council to convert a former NatWest bank branch in Church Street, Colne, into a bar. The micro-pub is proposed to open between 9am and 2am daily, reports the Lancashire Telegraph. Carmelo Pillitteri and brothers Josh and Barney Vines founded Northern Whisper in 2017. It operates a taproom at its brewery.

Kopparberg enters premium gin market with Greene King launch: Swedish cider-maker Kopparberg has launched into the premium gin market. The 37.5% ABV pink gin is infused with Kopparberg’s strawberry and lime flavours and will be exclusively available for six weeks at more than 700 Greene King pubs from Monday (6 May) before being available to purchase in select retailers across the UK. The gin will be supported as part of Kopparberg’s £6m Outside Is Ours marketing campaign, while it will also be available at a number of festivals this summer. Head of marketing Rob Salvesen said: “Not many people know we brew and distill many other drinks in our brewery in Sweden and, with more than ten years’ experience in distilling gin, it was an obvious decision for us to introduce Kopparberg Premium Gin in one of our most iconic flavours.” Greene King senior category manager Calum Cameron added: “We are excited to exclusively launch Kopparberg’s first UK gin in our pubs.”

Fattal Group lined up to operate proposed Manchester hotel: Israel-based Fattal Group has been lined up as the operator of a new hotel earmarked for Manchester. Capital & Centric has lodged plans with the city council for the 275-bedroom hotel near Manchester Piccadilly station. The hotel will cover 110,000 square foot across 13 storeys on the corner of Adair Street and Great Ancoats Street. Fattal Group will operate the venue under the Leonardo Hotel brand, with an opening lined up for 2021. A new urban quarter comprising a restaurant and bar is also proposed. The hotel is part of Capital & Centric’s wider ambitions for the area around Piccadilly station, with the developer already on-site at nearby Crusader Mill. Co-founder Adam Higgins told Insider Media: “People are crying out for this part of the city to be regenerated. Everyone we spoke to can’t believe it has been left forgotten for years. The potential round here is huge. This is just the start for us. We’ve big plans for more apartments, offices, hotels and cafe bars.” It would be the second hotel in the area for Capital & Centric, which is on-site at The London Warehouse. This week, Fattal Group relaunched four central London hotels following a deal last month that saw the venues acquired from Grange Hotels by Queensgate Investments in a $1bn deal.

Cineworld to open relocated Eastbourne site in July: Cineworld has revealed its new-look site in the East Sussex town of Eastbourne will open in July, relocating from its original location in Sovereign Harbour Retail Park. The new cinema will open in The Beacon Shopping Centre featuring eight screens, two more than the current site. Cineworld Eastbourne general manager John Glover told Insider Media: “We are excited about our new location in the heart of Eastbourne and can’t wait to open the doors to movie fans on Friday, 12 July.” The Beacon manager Bill Plumridge added: “It will be a huge boost to the town’s night-time economy to have this cinema open for business ready for the school holidays.” The current cinema at Sovereign Harbour will close on the same day the new site opens.

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