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Thu 3rd Oct 2019 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Thai Leisure Group lays out details of refresh and investment strategy if CVA successful: Thai Leisure Group, operator of Thaikhun and Chaophraya, has laid out details of a rebranding exercise and refresh programme if its proposed company voluntary arrangement (CVA) is voted through on Friday (4 October). In documents seen by Propel, the company plans to close a handful of sites on the back of the CVA and agree new rental levels on the majority of its 20-strong estate. The group’s management has also made forecasts reflecting their best view of the company’s performance after taking into account the CVA’s impact. The forecasts have been compiled “bottom up”, with key assumptions such as like-for-like sales, gross margin, overhead expenditure and capital investment, specific to each individual restaurant. Those assumptions are based on recent trading performance and the impact of known and forecast changes to legislation such as National Living Wage rises and capital investment to refresh and rebrand some sites. Restaurant Ebitda in FY20 (12 months ending 31 July 2020) is forecast to be £1.0m higher than in FY19 (£4.9m) and then £4.3m in FY21 (12 months ending 31 July 2021) as the one-off rates benefit of the prior year is lost. The improvement in FY20 Ebitda is primarily driven by the closure of loss-making sites and lower property costs driven by the CVA. However, those benefits are partially offset by reduced gross profit from the continuing sites due to lower sales and a deterioration in the gross margin. Management is forecasting a 2.8% decline in like-for-like sales (Chaophraya minus 3.4%, Thaikhun minus 2.3%) partly a continuation of the recent trend but also reflecting the temporary closure of certain sites for rebranding work. During FY20, management plans incremental capital investment of £450,000 to refresh and extend the trading footprint at a number of Chaophraya sites and a further £550,000 to rebrand the two Chao Baby restaurants and a Thaikhun as Thaikhun Street buffets. This investment is expected to improve like-for-like performance and labour efficiency in FY21. Although restaurant Ebitda is expected to fall in FY21, it is nevertheless £320,000 higher than that achieved in FY19. Like-for-like sales are forecast to increase 2.4% (Chaophraya 1.3%, Thaikhun 3.2%) following the prior and ongoing investment. A further two Thaikhuns, both in shopping centres, are set to be converted into buffet formats. During FY21 a further £400,000 of capital expenditure is planned for shopping centre Thaikhun sites and Chaophraya refreshes, resulting in a total incremental investment of £1.4m during the CVA. The company plans to fund this by reinvesting the CVA-related savings and cutting servicing costs of its bank debt. The company’s banker, Santander, has agreed to restructure the payment plan of its current lending. There are four categories of leases in the proposed CVA, with eight restaurants to be retained in full plus the group’s head office. Category 2 landlords would receive 72p in the pound paid as rent during the period of the CVA, which includes sites in Oxford, Glasgow (Silverburn), Aberdeen (Union Square), Aberdeen (Union Street), Cambridge, Southampton and Gateshead (Metro Centre). Those leases in Category 3 – Newcastle Eldon Square, Liverpool Yee Rah and Guildford – would see landlords receive 52p in the pound paid as rent during the CVA. Category 4 leases would see landlords receive 10% of site turnover paid as rent during the CVA. The sites in this category, and those thought to be under greatest threat of closure, are Liverpool Chaophraya, TK Bar in Liverpool, and an unopened site in Glasgow Fort.

Industry News:

Mark Wingett to look at Prezzo and Revolution turnaround progress in latest Premium column: Propel insights editor Mark Wingett will look at how the turnarounds at Prezzo and Revolution Bars Group are coming along and what could be next for both businesses in his latest opinion piece, which will be sent to Propel Premium subscribers on Friday (4 October) at 5pm. Meanwhile, Premium Diary will take a peek into the industry rumour mill. 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, regular video recordings of key speakers from Propel events and conferences, and regular columns from Mark Wingett. They also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,500 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 anne.steele@propelinfo.com

English border supermarkets see alcohol sales soar following Scottish MUP: Supermarkets near Carlisle and Berwick have reported a surge in alcohol sales after minimum unit pricing (MUP) was introduced in Scotland. The study, carried out for NHS Scotland by Foresight Economics, found alcohol sales jumped 40% in one English supermarket close to the border and 25% in another in the three months after cheap alcohol sales were banned in Scotland. MUP came into force in Scotland on 1 May 2018 in an attempt to cut Scotland’s higher-than-average alcohol consumption and high death rates from alcohol-related diseases. The legislation prevents retailers selling beer, wine, spirits and cider at less than 50p per unit of alcohol. Sales of cut-price drinks such as cider or own-brand vodka fell in Scotland, while overall consumption of alcohol fell slightly. The study found MUP had some impact on sales and profits but that was cushioned by a growth in sales of premium drinks with higher margins. However, the study found no evidence of “white van runs”, while three of the five unnamed supermarkets near the border reported no change in sales and there was no evidence of a substantial fall in sales for Scottish shops near the border. Andrew Leicester, of Frontier Economics, told The Guardian: “The short-term impacts of MUP on the Scottish alcoholic drinks industry seen in this study are difficult to differentiate from other factors affecting the market such as one-off events like the World Cup and periods of good weather.” The Welsh government is also set to introduce minimum pricing.

Survey finds 60% of US restaurant occasions are off-premises dining: About three-fifths (60%) of restaurant occasions in the US are now off-premises across all forms, including drive-thru, takeout and delivery, according to a new survey by the National Restaurant Association in partnership with Technomic. The study, Harnessing Technology To Drive Off-Premises Sales, explored how operators are using technology to drive and manage off-premises sales as consumers’ lives continue to be driven by online and app-based ordering. The study found 92% of US consumers use drive-thru at least once a month, more than one-third (34%) use delivery more often than a year ago, almost four-fifths (79%) use restaurant delivery, and more than half (53%) use third-party aggregators at least once a month. The study said restaurant brands were investing in technology but struggling to keep up with consumer expectations. It found almost three-quarters (74%) of companies were investing in off-premises programmes but none of the top five investments included customer-facing technology. Meanwhile, more than two-fifths (43%) of delivery users place orders via restaurant apps, while only 18% of operators offer ordering via their own app. Almost two-thirds (66%) of operators offer delivery through a third-party service, with 55% offering delivery internally. Other findings include more than one-fifth (22%) of consumers used kiosk ordering last year and 11% used voice assistant ordering. More than two-fifths (44%) of restaurant operators that offer voice ordering and 50% that offer location intelligence said the technology had a large impact on their business. Hudson Riehle, of the National Restaurant Association, said: “Off-premises capabilities are more important than ever to keep restaurants aligned with the wants and needs of its customers.”

Pub20 launches awards: Pub20, the only dedicated trade show for the UK pub industry, has launched an awards scheme. The awards will recognise the best publican and pub chef of the year. Entries will close on Friday, 1 November and the winners will be announced on Tuesday, 4 February 2020 at the end of the first day of Pub20, which takes place at Olympia London. For more information, click here

Company News:

Rick Stein sees sales rise 2.8% at restaurant business in first half of 2019 as it reports full-year profit drop, agrees new £7m banking facility: Chef Rick Stein has seen sales at his restaurant business rise 2.8% in the first half of 2019 and agreed a new £7.0m banking facility.Turnover was up 0.8% to £29,176,000 for the year ending 30 December 2018, compared with £28,955,000 the year before. Ebitda fell to £1,713,000, compared with £2,566,000 the previous year. Operating profit dropped to £329,000 compared with£1,185,000 the year before, while pre-tax profit was down to £111,000 compared with £960,000 the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Capital expenditure reduced to £653,000, compared with £2,680,000 the year before. Wage costs were up 3% to £12,572,000 (2017: £12,184,000) with a wages to sales ratio of 43.1% (2017: 42.1%). Sales for the first half of 2019 were up 2.8% on last year, at £13.3m. A new term loan of £7.0m for 15 years was agreed and put into effect with Barclays Bank in August 2019.” Stein’s empire, which he owns with ex-wife Jill, consists of 14 venues across the south west, including The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, as well as sites in Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Barnes in London.

Chick ‘n’ Sours lines up fourth London site: Chick ‘n’ Sours, the Carl Clarke and David Wolanski-founded concept, is to open a fourth site in London, in Spitalfields. Propel has learned the company, which is backed by Active Partners, has secured the former L’Ami Malo site in Artillery Passage for an opening before the end of the year. L’Ami Malo, a modern creperie and bar, was the brainchild of Emilien Lesourd and Vincent Couvreur. It launched in early 2018 but closed this summer. Chick ‘n’ Sours’ other sites are in Seven Dials, Islington and Haggerston. The founders also operate fried chicken fast food concept Chik’n, which opened its second site, in Wardour Street, Soho, earlier this year after its debut in Baker Street. Propel understands Dorian Waite, co-founder of Active-backed Honest Burgers, joined the board of Chick ‘n’ Sours earlier this summer. Shelley Sandzer acted on the Spitalfields deal. Etai Page, leasing agent at Shelley Sandzer, said: “Chick ‘n’ Sours is an already strong brand in this part of London, and we combined our understanding of the market with its requirements to bring forward this prime site. The brand will no doubt capitalise on footfall from Spitalfields, Liverpool Street, and Shoreditch, and I have confidence it will make a huge success of this location.”

Three Joes reports like-for-likes up 16% in third quarter, secures Meadowhall site: Sourdough pizza restaurant Three Joes, co-founded by Tim Hall, founder of London-based healthy eating brand Pod, has reported like-for-like sales up 16% in its third quarter. The company, which Hall co-owns with ex-Pod food director Emma Blackmore and former Byron operations director Peter Bruton, has also secured its third site, at Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield. Three Joes, which has outlets in Fareham and Winchester, aims to open its latest restaurant in November. Hall said: “We feel ready to challenge ourselves head to head against some of the large established chains and look forward to this exciting next step.” Bruton added: “We have delivered 16% group like-for-like revenue growth for this quarter, which is significantly ahead of expectation. Our Winchester site has been particularly buoyant and it’s credit to our head of operations Richard Clancy and his team that they have achieved this while focusing on establishing systems and hiring talent in preparation for the start of our next phase of roll-out.” Blackmore said: “We have increased our focus on recipe innovation and seasonality throughout the summer. Customers are clearly telling us this is what they want from an independent restaurant – the opposite of cookie-cutter, mass-produced food.”

Robinsons acquires Cheshire pub from Marston’s: North west brewer and retailer Robinsons has acquired The Egerton Arms in Broxton, near Chester, from Marston’s. The venue will join Robinsons’ estate as a tenanted pub, with all management and staff transferring to the new owner. William Robinson, managing director of Robinsons’ pub division, said: “This continues our aim to develop our tenanted and managed estates through strategic investment and acquisition of pubs that are trading well or have potential to do so. Our like-for-like tenanted operating growth last year was fuelled by well-placed pub investments, acquisition and training, and we wouldn’t rule out further acquisitions into either side of our pub estate if the right opportunities become available. This is typically where a good food and drink offer would work in a village or neighbourhood setting, with letting rooms as an added bonus.” Robinsons, which owns 260 pubs, inns and hotels in the north west, acquired The Egerton Arms with the assistance of agent Fleurets. Last month Robinsons announced its 2018 results, with turnover rising 6.1% to £75.5m and pre-tax profits increasing to £7.1m.

Seafood Pub Company sees continued sales growth in 2019 as it reports £1m operating loss: Seafood Pub Company has reported continued year-on-year sales growth in 2019 but also increased losses following a number of one-off costs. The company, which operates ten sites, saw turnover rise 2% to £9,199,149 for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £9,019,651 the previous year. It made an operating loss of £1,038,027 compared with a profit of £35,431 the year before, while pre-tax losses rose to £1,231,850 compared with £172,383 the previous year. Net current liabilities rose to £11,008,652 from £10,869,125 the year before. In her report accompanying the accounts, managing director Joycelyn Neve stated: “The company continues to trade in line with previous years. Post-period end, the company has continued to achieve year-on year growth in a difficult trading environment. The company has made an operating loss for the period of £1,038,000 after depreciation and amortisation. The company’s costs include a number of one-off expenses connected to system improvements, restructuring and the exit of one non-core site, Roaming Roosters. These costs aren’t expected to repeat in future years. The directors are satisfied with the underlying Ebitda performance. The site acquisitions made during 2017 have embedded and allowed the Seafood Pub Company brand to have a strong presence in Yorkshire. The investment in people, systems and trading sites made during the year has left the company well positioned for growth. The long-term strategy continues to be to develop the Seafood Pub Company brand, organically and through acquisition, to widen our geographic presence.” Penta Capital bought a majority stake in Seafood Pub Company in July 2016. The private equity firm arranged an £18m funding package to acquire a majority stake in the business and provide funds for expansion.

St Austell Brewery acquires Somerset pub: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has acquired The Windmill Inn, near Staple in Somerset. The pub will become part of St Austell Brewery’s tenanted estate and will be run by new tenants Craig and Karen Holmes. Situated in the Quantock Hills, the pub features a function room, accommodation, bar and restaurant. St Austell Brewery retail director Steve Worrall said: “This is a really exciting acquisition for the company and a great opportunity for Craig and Karen to drive this wonderful inn forward. We have an ongoing strategy to strengthen our award-winning estate of pubs and hotels across the south west and beyond.” St Austell Brewery owns more than 175 pubs, inns and hotels across Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Bristol and the Isles of Scilly.

Gaske joins Stonegate as sales director: Simon Gaske, formerly of Novus and Davy’s Wine Bars, has joined Stonegate Pub Company as sales director, Propel has learned. Gaske spent four and a half years at Novus, the majority as marketing director. Before that he was head of sales and marketing at Davy’s for more than a year. Stonegate acquired 15 bars from Novus in 2018 and followed that with a deal for a further six sites early this year. In November 2018, Novus sold three Tiger Tiger venues – in Newcastle, Manchester and Portsmouth – which The Deltic Group is converting into a Garden of Eden-inspired concept. Shoreditch Bar Group bought the remainder of London bar and restaurant operator Novus’ late-night business for an undisclosed sum in June, while in July Novus sold three Balls Brothers sites and the brand rights to Mosaic Pub and Dining. The deal left Novus with three Balls Brothers sites, including The Sterling, and a Tank & Paddle venue in Heddon Street, Mayfair.

Molson Coors UK reports turnover boost as on-trade beer volumes return to growth: Molson Coors’ UK business has reported a slight boost in turnover as on-trade beer volumes returned to growth. The company, whose brands include Carling, Coors Light, Cobra and Doom Bar, saw turnover rise 1.8% to £1.45bn for the year ending 31 December 2018, compared with £1.42bn the previous year. The announcement comes as the UK beer market increased 2.6% in total volume in 2018, with the on-trade up 0.1% after its 2.3% decline the year before. Operating profit fell to £16.3m compared with £56.8m the year before, while pre-tax profit dropped 64.8% to £21.6m compared with £61.3m the previous year, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Molson Coors said the decline was a result of a “combination of margin reduction from pricing pressure and increased costs of goods due to commodity inflation”. During the year the company incurred exceptional costs of £4.2m, down from £7m the year before, relating to the restructuring of its operations. This was primarily down to the company deciding to close its Burton South brewery. At the start of the financial year, Molson Coors acquired Suffolk-based cider-maker Aspall for an undisclosed sum. Dividends paid in the year amounted to £77.2m, down from £119.7m the year before. In their report accompanying the accounts, the directors stated: “Industry pricing continues to be the biggest challenge causing margin pressure in the UK beer business in the on-trade and off-trade. The company is managing pricing by channel, in the context of local competition, while staying focused on the core strategy of building strong brands for the long term and focusing on our strategy of first choice for consumer and customer.”

No dividend for NYC Bar & Grill’s unsecured and preferential creditors: Unsecured and preferential creditors of NYC Partnership, which operated five New York-themed burger restaurants and bars in Yorkshire under the NYC Bar & Grill brand, will receive no dividend, a new report has revealed. A progress report filed at Companies House by administrators Joanne Hammond and Claire Dowson, of Begbies Traynor, showed secured creditor Barclays Bank, which was owed £580,000, had now received £10,000 under its fixed charge following a pre-pack sale of the business and assets for a total consideration of £60,000. The report showed unsecured creditors were owed circa £700,000, while preferential creditors in the form of former employees were owed £39,615 with regards to outstanding wages and holiday pay. However, the report stated: “There have been insufficient realisations to pay a dividend to unsecured or preferential creditors as the funds have been distributed to the secured creditor and used to defray the costs of the administration.” As previously reported, NYC Bar & Grill expanded rapidly in the 18 months prior to going into administration in February last year and obtained funding to support its growth. However, it encountered problems when the opening of its Darlington site was delayed by three months, which had a significant impact on cash flow. Its sites in Bawtry, Stocksbridge, Doncaster and Hull were closed and staff made redundant prior to entering administration. Following the appointment of administrators, the pre-pack sale of the business and assets of NYC Partnership was completed, enabling the Darlington venue to continue trading.

Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett to launch second live venue in London: Ben Lovett, of folk band Mumford & Sons, is to launch his second London live music venue. Lafayette will open in King’s Cross in February and follows the success of Lovett’s first venture, Omeara, in Flat Iron Square. The venue will be within the new Goods Way development, just off Pancras Square and Granary Square. Lovett said: “I have had some of my favourite and most memorable experiences in Omeara since it opened in late 2016 and the experience it has provided fans and artists is something important to London’s venue landscape. I’m committed to pushing forward a new era of music venues that elevate people’s expectations of what that experience should be. I believe London should continually strive to be at the forefront of the entertainment industry on a global stage.” Events at the new venue will be booked by Communion, the same live promotions team that books all live shows and club nights at Omeara. Earlier this week Cooking Collective revealed its debut restaurant, Lupins in London Bridge, had become the first nut-free restaurant in the capital after its founders worked with Lovett, who has a life-threatening nut allergy. 

Investors acquire Huddersfield-based gourmet burger restaurant: Huddersfield-based gourmet burger restaurant Pax Burger has been sold for an undisclosed sum. The business, which is based in Lindley, has been acquired by investors Adam Thompson and Jason Aldiss. Thompson, sales director of Consider Energy, and Aldiss, managing director of Eville & Jones, will shortly announce details of a rebrand and launch event. Previous owner Eric Paxman told The Business Desk: “I am incredibly proud of everything our team achieved at Pax since we launched in 2016. The business is trading successfully providing the new owners with a great platform for growth and development. My plan now is to focus on Eric’s Restaurant, which turns ten next year, with exciting new events and menus planned.” Thompson and Aldiss added: “We are thrilled to come on board and can assure customers there will be no compromise on quality as the restaurant begins a new journey. There will be a number of innovations but our approach will be one of evolution, not revolution. Eric has done a remarkable job and we wish him well for the future.”

Sunset Hospitality Group launches Sweet Chick into UK: Sunset Hospitality Group, the Dubai-based boutique investment and hospitality management company, has opened a debut UK site for US fried chicken and waffle concept Sweet Chick. The company has launched at the former Carluccio’s in Market Place, Oxford Circus. Sweet Chick was founded in 2013 by John Seymour and is backed by rapper Nas. The London venue follows a similar format to Sweet Chick’s US restaurants – four in New York and one in Los Angeles. Alongside fried chicken and waffles, the menu offers shrimp, grits, biscuits and cornbread. Desserts include a doughnut ice-cream sandwich while a Brooklyn-style bar offers cocktails and beer. Seymour said: “The food scene is massive in London but we hope we can offer something fresh with our take on southern-inspired staples and the best fried chicken and waffles this side of the Atlantic.” Propel understands Sunset Hospitality Group is looking at sites in Birmingham for the concept. Shelley Sandzer secured the Oxford Circus site on behalf of Sweet Chick.

Buzzworks launches community bursary scheme: Scottish bar and restaurant operator Buzzworks Holdings has launched a community bursary scheme. The company said it would support a range of local organisations and projects within communities where the company operates including Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and West Lothian. Groups and projects of all sizes can apply for a share of the £60,000 bursary through Buzzworks’ websites, with each request decided by a committee from the area’s relevant venue. Managing director Kenny Blair said: “This is something that’s always been important to us as a business and why we formally introduced Buzzworks Giving Back in 2014. Since then we’ve donated more than £100,000 to local causes. The opening of our community bursary is an extension of that, allowing us to offer support to more groups, schools, individuals, community projects and good causes.” The bursary will be reviewed on a quarterly basis, with the closing deadline for the first tranche of entries on Thursday, 31 October.

Wagamama launches menu focusing on hand-held street food: Wagamama, The Restaurant Group-owned brand, has launched a menu that focuses on hand-held street food. Executive chef Steve Mangleshot travelled to Tokyo and Singapore as inspiration for new dishes such as chicken yakitori, vegan tempura, and a new range of vegan buns. A new curry, Nikko, which means “sunlight”, is available in chicken, fish and vegan options and has been inspired by the flavours of southern India. Mangleshot said: “Visiting the suburbs of Tokyo gave us the inspiration for the hand-held food. The busy bars had stand-up tables and guests ate yakitori and crispy tempura while enjoying a drink. The simplicity and speed of the dishes was impressive and the wood barbecue smoky flavouring coupled with the caramelised sauce was delicious. Our yakitori will be cooked on a teppanyaki to capture that authentic taste.” Last week Wagamama launched a partnership with Gousto offering four of its dishes in recipe-box format, while the company revealed its new food-to-go concept, Mamago, will open on the ground floor of the Fen Court building at 120 Fenchurch Street before the end of the year. 

Wingstop opens second London site: US chicken brand Wingstop has opened its second restaurant in London. The company, which made its UK debut last year in Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End, has launched at the former La Petite Bretagne site in Kingsland High Street in Dalston. The 80-cover restaurant offers the brand’s signature wings with flavours such as lemon and pepper, spicy Korean, Brazilian citrus pepper, mango habanero and garlic Parmesan. Last month Wingstop, which has more than 1,000 restaurants internationally, said it had two further sites lined up for London following the Dalston opening. In 2017 the company entered an agreement with Lemon Pepper Holdings to launch and roll out in the UK. The plan is to grow to 75 sites in the next 12 years.

Greene King Pub Partners launches new-look Sports Club: Greene King Pub Partners has launched its new-look Sports Club package to help members make the most of major sporting events. Licensees who join Sports Club can access monthly football point-of-sale kits covering major matches including weekly fixtures posters and headline posters for key games. Fixture posters will also be delivered for other sports such as Formula 1, golf, cricket and tennis. Support kits for major tournaments will include marketing and promotional support for inside and online from Greene King IPA and other preferred sports partners. Licensees who join the Premier Sports Club also get access to pub finder app and website MatchPint. Pub Partners head of marketing Phil Chatwin said: “Sport is one of the key drivers for customers to visit their local pub and with our new-look Sports Club we wanted to create a complete package of everything our partners need to build a firm foundation for showcasing the current Rugby World Cup as well as Premier League, Champions League and other major sporting events through the calendar.”

Brunning & Price reopens Worcestershire village pub: Brunning & Price, the gastro-pub brand owned by The Restaurant Group, has reopened The Plough & Harrow in Guarlford, Worcestershire. The company has relaunched the venue almost a year after it bought the pub from Devizes-based brewer and retailer Wadworth. The old house and historic pub have seen the addition of a garden room that looks out on to a stone patio, lawns and a wildflower meadow beyond. There is also a 20-cover private dining room upstairs with a private balcony offering views across the Malvern Hills. Earlier this week Propel revealed Brunning & Price, which operates more than 70 pub restaurants, had acquired The Bell in Alderminster, Warwickshire, for its latest site.

JD Wetherspoon to host 12-day beer festival for 40th anniversary: JD Wetherspoon is hosting a beer festival to celebrate its 40th anniversary. A number of beers are being brewed exclusively for the 12-day festival, which will take place at more than 890 Wetherspoon pubs in the UK and Republic of Ireland. The pubs will serve up to 40 beers each during the festival, which will run from Wednesday, 9 October to Sunday, 20 October. Customers will be able to sample any three real ales in third-of-a-pint glasses for the price of a pint. Tasting notes on all beers will also be available, while limited edition £1 pint glasses will be on sale on a first come, first served basis. Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson said: “It is a great opportunity for real ale enthusiasts to enjoy an excellent selection of beers, including many that have been brewed specially for the festival.”

John Gaunt ranks as leading law practice in two regions: Licensing solicitor John Gaunt & Partners has been ranked leading practice in two regions in the latest edition of Legal 500. The firm, which has offices in Sheffield, Portsmouth and London, was named number one for licensing in the south east and in Yorkshire and The Humber. John Gaunt & Partners manages licensing for the estates of several operators, including Greene King and Whitbread. Published annually, Legal 500 is a guide to the UK’s best law firms and solicitors.

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