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Thu 3rd Dec 2020 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Nick Collins – property market has never been better for opportunities to open higher revenue and Ebitda sites: Nick Collins, chief executive of cafe-bar operator Loungers, has told Propel the property market has never been better for opportunities to open higher revenue and Ebitda sites. Speaking after the company’s interim results, Collins said the pipeline for next year looks “very strong” as the Lounges and Cosy Club operator looks towards growing the 170-strong portfolio to 300 sites. He said: “We’re seeing more sites and what is really good is in some of the locations where we want to have a Lounge or a Cosy Club there has been a shortage of supply previously. The property market has never been better for opportunities from a revenue and Ebitda perspective. We have always focused on having a management structure in place to ensure we continue to evolve the brands and improve our performance, while the business continues to grow at pace. As we near the 200-site threshold, we have adapted the management structure to ensure we are suitably resourced to look forward to being a 300-site business.” In its presentation document, the company said it has exchanged on 13 sites, 12 are at heads of term stage, 19 are in negotiation and 21 are under consideration. Among the sites secured is the former PizzaExpress restaurant in St Ives, Cornwall, which Collins said the business hopes to open before next summer. Loungers opened 27 of its sites for takeaway and click and collect during the first lockdown while it has since piloted to delivery at one outlet, near Manchester University. However, Collins said the formats would not play a major role going forward. He said while the move had been helpful in terms of getting the supply chain back up and running, learning to operate in a covid-secure environment and getting the teams back together, it had not generated “meaningful revenue in a large number of sites”. He added: “We have 60 sites within the tier three restrictions and they will be staying closed. We have sites in a lot of places where the delivery firms don’t operate and we recognised, during lockdown, we could provide a service to the community but it doesn’t make financial sense. We are focused on having people inside our venues and offering them the best possible experience rather than enjoying it at home.” Collins said he was confident the company could get the trading back to the levels it enjoyed pre-covid. He said: “If you remove Eat Out To Help Out and VAT from our like-for-like figures then we have only been at minus 1.3%. When you have looked at the restrictions we have faced, including reduced covers, we are very optimistic about trading on the other side of his pandemic. We anticipate the next few months being difficult and we expect further disruption to trade but with a vaccine on the horizon, hopefully the end is in sight.” 

Industry News:

Trade bodies call on government to create new fund for sector and redistribute Tesco cash: Trade body UKHospitality has called on the government to create a Hospitality and Tourism Recovery Fund to support hospitality businesses that have not received any grant support and are at risk of closure. The move follows the news that supermarket Tesco will repay £585m of grant support to the government. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “It is an admirable and altruistic gesture from a company that is clearly in a much better financial situation than the vast majority of the those in hospitality. The question now is what happens to this money, which the government had intended to invest in supporting businesses. We are calling on the government to earmark that money, to create a fund for those hospitality and tourism businesses that are at high risk of failure, have been closed since March or that have had no grant support, similar to the Cultural Recovery Fund. A Hospitality and Tourism Recovery Fund, including rent support to preserve the future of our high streets, would deliver a huge boost to businesses that are only just clinging onto life right when they need it most.” Meanwhile, the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has called on the government to redistribute the £585m in business rates relief returned by Tesco to 40,000 pubs and 2,000 breweries that have suffered hardest during the crisis. It said this fund could provide each pub and each brewery in the country with up to £14,000 each, helping them offset the damage being in tier two and three restrictions will do during the Christmas period and making up for the “derisory” £1,000 offered to wet-led pubs by the government this week. SIBA said the UK’s big supermarkets have received £1.9bn in business rates relief and grants, but have simultaneously paid shareholders dividends of near equal amounts. SIBA chief executive James Calder said: “Supermarkets have thrived during this crisis, but the UK’s pubs and brewers, which are core to their communities, have been left behind. Other supermarkets should follow the good example set by Tesco: return the relief they didn’t need; and the government should use the money wisely to give us a chance to see in the new year.”

Wet-led pubs can team up with takeaways to serve ‘substantial’ meals: Prime minister Boris Johnson has given his backing to savvy pub landlords who are using takeaways as a way of providing customers with a “substantial” meal. Downing Street has given the thumbs-up for wet-led pubs to team up with local fast food outlets in order to carry on pulling pints. However a spokesman said pubs must be in an agreement with “local restaurants” in order to keep within England's new covid tier two rules. Customers are not allowed to bring their own food into a pub – pouring cold water on plans to use food delivery services such as Deliveroo. Mark and Debie Daniels, of The Brewers Arms in Worcester, which has no kitchen, have partnered with Nick Zipiti, of St John's Fish Bar. The pub operates around the chip shop's usual hours and customers are asked to order food at the bar before being able to buy a drink. Downing Street said pub-goers and landlords would need to exercise their judgement in deciding what complied with the coronavirus restrictions. A spokesman told The Mail: “Businesses that do not ordinarily serve food may enter into a contracting arrangement with other local restaurants, for example, in order that they are able to do so and remain open.”
 
BBPA – just 27% of pubs in Britain open, Welsh operators to receive three times more support than in England: Just 27% of pubs in Britain – 12,600 in total – were able to open on Wednesday (2 December) due to the various restrictions in place, according to research by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA). In a survey of its members earlier this week, operators also suggested their pubs could close again as soon as this week if they are unviable opening under the new tier two restrictions. The BBPA said the findings highlight just how much the pub sector expects to be unviable under the new tier restrictions that have come into force and will be in place for the foreseeable future. Research by the trade association also showed pubs in England will receive three times less financial support than pubs in Wales. The average grant payment a pub will receive in England during the next six weeks will be £3,400, whereas an initial analysis of the package announced by the Welsh government on Monday (30 November) suggested this would be £11,300 for pubs in Wales in compensation for the tighter restrictions coming into force there from Friday (4 December). Some pubs in Wales, based on employee numbers, will be eligible for considerably more than this and yet, in contrast, the total pubs in England are eligible for is between £3,000 and £5,500 over the same six-week period, the BBPA said. Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “Having invested £500m in safety measures to ensure they are covid-secure, it is ridiculous so many of our pubs are being forced to remain closed unfairly. Pubs in Wales rightly look set to receive at least three times more in grant support than pubs in England. This is a closer reflection of the real level of costs that pubs will incur under these tight restrictions this Christmas. The prime minister’s £1,000 one-off payment is an insult to pubs on their knees in England. He can and must do better.” 

SHG tells government hospitality is bearing brunt of abuse over confusing restrictions: The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) has told the Scottish government those on the frontline of hospitality have faced abuse from customers over the confusing tier system. It also told MSPs the sector must be allowed to “trade viability if the Scottish government is not going to mandate their closure and provide proper financial support to safeguard their future”. Giving evidence to the Scottish parliament’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee on Tuesday (1 December), SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said: “Our industry has been hit very badly, partly because we’ve been subject to far more restrictions than other parts of the UK in recent months. Yet, hard-working and anxious staff are having to put up with abuse from members of the public because of the confusion and disappointment caused by the measures in place. Once again, we ask the Scottish government to provide greater clarity and to open the door for meaningful dialogue with the sector about our operations and the support we need. We’ve made multiple proposals to government on adjustments to how restriction levels operate that would allow the sector to trade viably in a safe manner consistent with public health guidance.” SHG will also give evidence to the Scottish parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee later this month. A petition started less than two weeks ago calling for the Scottish government to “tweak the tiers” is approaching 19,000 signatories. It is part of a broader campaign across social and media to address minor changes in restrictions that could avoid business closures and redundancies. SHG comprises many of the country’s largest and best-known restaurant and bar businesses, including The DRG Group, Buzzworks Holdings, Signature Pubs, Montpeliers, Manorview Group, Lisini Pub Co, Caledonia Inns, G1 Group, Siberia Bar & Hotel, Mor-Rioghain Group, and Caledonian Heritable. 

Brains to shut more than 100 managed pubs from Friday as boss calls new alcohol rules ‘closure by stealth’: Alistair Darby, chief executive of Welsh brewer and retailer SA Brain, has called new alcohol rules “closure by stealth” and announced more than 100 managed pubs will be closed from Friday (4 December). Brains said the majority of its 1,500 staff will be put on furlough on 80% of their wages. Darby told the BBC the earlier firebreak cost it £1.6m. Welsh pubs and restaurants will be banned from selling alcohol from Friday and must close after 6pm. Darby said the new rules for pubs were “insulting” and “a huge slap in the face” for the sector. Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford promised firms hit by the restrictions they would be offered £340m in support, which he claimed was “the most generous package” anywhere in the UK. However Darby said the support “would not touch the sides”. As an £80m turnover business, Brains spent £500,000 in personal protective equipment and digital technology for pre-booking, while it has “surrendered” huge capacity and lost summer trading, Darby added. He said: “My message to politicians is ‘you have to stop changing your mind on what is required in the sector’.”
 
Hospitality businesses beginning to make the most of Black Friday says Toggle: Research by hospitality gift card platform Toggle has discovered consumers spent £2m per minute during Black Friday at the end of November – and it is a market hospitality has only recently adopted. Toggle, which allows hospitality businesses to set up online shops quickly and sell items such as gift cards, took its first proper foray into Black Friday last year and has accumulated enough data to identify shifts in year-on-year trends and an indication for how December sales are likely to unfold. The platform found an overall 42% uplift in Black Friday sales compared to last year, a tenfold daily increase in sales compared to an average day, and people aged 21 to 30 made up the biggest proportion of sales (35%) – this is a leap from 21% in 2019, where people aged between 31 and 40 made up the greatest percentage of sales. As expected, online sales dominated and saw a 117% increase on last year’s digital sales, offsetting the capitulation of in-venue sales, which dropped by 97%. Strong offers proved fruitful for a number of hospitality businesses this year, including a premium restaurant and cocktail bar operator selling £25,000 worth of gift cards over the final weekend of November, with a 20% off offer. Research also confirmed operators should think beyond gift cards. A dinner for two with a free bottle of wine can be more lucrative than gift cards. Toggle chief executive Dan Brookman said: “Black Friday has a long way to evolve for the sector. Brands are quite rightly fearful of discounting, however, Black Friday can stimulate brand growth with retail and experiences with added value activity. There’s no getting away from the fact that customers are looking to spend.”
Toggle is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member
 
Bar owner wins five-year legal tax battle over VAT after claiming his ‘super juices’ are food: A bar owner has won a five-year legal battle over tax payments after successfully claiming his “super juices” are food. Kris Talikowski, who runs The Core juice bar in Swindon, Wiltshire, refused to pay VAT on his drinks, having marketed them as a “meal replacement”. His legal battle with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) began in 2015, and he won his case three years later when a tax tribunal ruled in his favour. The first-tier tribunal ruled the juices, made from fruit and vegetables, were not beverages so were not subject to the standard rate of VAT. And that ruling has now been upheld by two judges who dismissed an appeal from HMRC to the Upper Tribunal (Tax and Chancery Chamber). Under current tax rules, most food is VAT-free and venues aren’t required to charge it on cold takeaway food unless it is eaten in a specific place. However, VAT is payable for purchases including sports drinks, soft drinks and mineral water. HMRC had claimed the original tribunal made errors in how it classified the juices. Talikowski told the Swindon Advertiser: “This was not a cynical attempt to avoid paying VAT. One of our main arguments is that the programmes are used by our customers as meal replacements. There is also the fact VAT can often disadvantage smaller traders and producers in the food and drink sector who have to pass on those costs to the consumer. They don’t have the economies of scale of much bigger brands.” A HMRC spokeswoman said it was “carefully considering the judgment”. It has until the middle of December to apply to take the matter to the Court of Appeal.

Nottinghamshire pub closed after flouting lockdown rules: A Nottinghamshire pub has been shut temporarily by police and council officers after it flouted lockdown rules by allowing people to drink alcohol indoors. Rushcliffe Borough Council officers watched as people visited the Chequers pub at Cropwell Bishop and while some collected boxed food as permitted under covid-19 lockdown regulations, it was noticed fewer people were seen leaving than arriving on Monday (1 December). Environmental health officers entered the premises and saw a group of men drinking alcohol, prompting a call to Nottinghamshire Police. Management at the premises claimed the individuals were customers using the takeaway service who did not want to wait outside in the cold for their food. Details of people inside were taken and the pub was given a prohibition order and a fine of £1,000, in line with central government guidelines. Rushcliffe inspector Craig Berry said: “Officers from the local council and Nottinghamshire Police were called to a pub in Cropwell Bishop on Friday night (27 November) following numerous calls from members of the public after reports that the premises were open and serving alcohol. We attended on Monday (1 December) and worked in a partnership approach to prevent further breaches of the legislation. The bar was issued with a prohibition notice and a fixed penalty notice.”

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a delivery focused business that is seeking to hire a sales manager. This is a field-based role in the Warwickshire area and the position pays up to £30,000 with excellent bonus and benefits package. They will be a key asset to the growth of the business and will be tasked with growing the existing portfolio including some of the high street’s most recognisable brands. The sales manager will construct and implement growth strategies for their key accounts, build deep and ongoing relationships with key decision makers and ensure key accounts receive the best service and utilise the platform to the full extent. This position would suit an individual who has at least two years’ experience in an account management or a client-facing role, preferably in hospitality or the fast-moving consumer goods sector. Anyone interested in finding out more can email kate@Corecruitment.com
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Premier Inn adds 13 new sites across Germany after acquisition from Centro Hotel Group, flagship hotel opens in Southwark: Whitbread, the owner of the Premier Inn and Hub by Premier Inn hotel brands, has completed the acquisition of 13 hotels across Germany from the Centro Hotel Group. The acquisition grows Whitbread’s network of trading and pipeline hotels to 68 locations across Germany and more than 12,000 bedrooms. Whitbread now operates 29 hotels, with a total open and committed pipeline of 68 hotels in Germany and sees the potential to operate around 60,000 bedrooms across the country. The acquisition of the 13 hotels from the Centro Group adds 1,934 bedrooms to Whitbread’s growing network in Germany. Six of the acquired sites (759 bedrooms) are trading hotels and seven sites (1,175 bedrooms) are either under construction or are secured development sites. Mark Anderson, managing director for Property and International at Whitbread, said: “Our ambition is for Premier Inn to be the number one budget hotel operator in Germany, offering business and leisure travellers the high-quality, good-value accommodation the Premier Inn brand is so well known for in the UK. The hotels match our network requirements and bring Premier Inn to many locations where we do not yet have a presence, including into a number of key towns and cities where we expect a strong demand for hotel rooms when the market recovers. This deal demonstrates the structural opportunities that now exist in the German market, which we believe we are very well-placed to take advantage of.” Except for new sites in Cologne and Hamburg, all the hotels acquired from the Centro Hotel Group are in new markets for Premier Inn. They include hotels that were trading under the NinetyNine, FourSide, Centro and Boutique 009 brands. The conversion of the operating hotels to Premier Inn branding is expected to occur in the first half of 2021. In the meantime, the open hotels will continue to operate in the Premier Inn estate under their existing branding. Meanwhile, Whitbread will open a 274-bedroom Premier Inn off The Cut in Southwark on Thursday (3 December). The Premier Inn will also house a Bar + Block restaurant. The Southwark hotel is one of three significant central London openings for Whitbread in its 2020-21 financial year. A new 110-bedroom Hub by Premier Inn hotel is scheduled to open on Berwick Street in Soho in early 2021 while a 246-bedroom Hub by Premier Inn will open on Quaker Street in Shoreditch in February 2021.
 
Papa John’s opens six stores across UK, creates 90 jobs: Papa John’s has opened six new pizza shops across the UK, generating more than 90 new jobs. The sites are located in Kempston in Bedford, Pallion in Sunderland, Stockton-on-Tees, Swadlincote in Derbyshire, Holborn in London and New Milton in Hampshire. Papa John’s UK director of business development Justin Gilbert said: “These new store openings add to our high street presence and offer even more convenience to our customers as we now have well over 450 Papa John’s in the UK. We currently have Papa John’s at multiple holiday parks in the UK plus other venues such as stadiums and ice rinks and this can work very well. The six new store openings, like our non-traditional outlets, are all managed by franchisees as their own businesses, backed up by Papa John’s extensive training and support. Help is provided with location selection, growth incentives and full turnkey opening of stores.” Papa John’s was founded in the US in 1984 and operates more than 5,000 stores in over 40 international markets and territories.
 
Redcomb founders set to double Prospect Pubs & Bars estate in first part of 2021, looking for up to five more sites next year: Dan Shotton and Mark Draper, the former owners of Redcomb Pubs that was sold to Young’s Brewery last year, are set to double their Prospect Pubs & Bars estate in the first part of next year, Propel has learned. The duo have two free-of-tie destination food-led sites in progress. One is in Buckinghamshire, due to open in February while the other, in north Oxfordshire, will hopefully open around Easter. Shotton told Propel they are also looking for up to another five sites for next year as “we see some great opportunities in our target sector”. It comes as the second site under the Prospect Pubs & Bars banner opens on Thursday (3 December). The duo have undertaken a joint £580,000 refurbishment of The Victoria in Woodham, Surrey, with Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars. The pub features a covid-safe, 100-cover restaurant and bar plus alfresco eating and drinking area for up to 160 customers. The menu features mains such as pan-fried, grass-fed calves’ liver with maple smoked bacon; and free-range pork and leek sausages served with buttered mash, crispy leeks and rich onion gravy. The drinks offer includes beer and ale, alongside cider, and spirits. There is also an extensive wine menu alongside an array of low and no-alcoholic options. Draper said: “The Victoria has been an integral part of Woodham for well over 100 years, and is a fabulous addition to our expanding pub company. Myself and Dan Shotton, have spent a number of years creating and developing a strong portfolio of independent pubs, all very much centred around the communities in which they thrive. Never before has this community focus been more important, and it remains an integral part of our future expansion plans.” Dugald Macer, Star Pubs & Bars regional operations director, added: “The Victoria has had a chequered history, having closed on more than one occasion in recent years. It is fantastic to have operators of this calibre taking The Victoria forward because it will transform the pub’s future and the area.”

Star Pubs & Bars invests further £5m in rent support for December: Heineken-owned Star Pubs & Bars is investing a further £5m in continuing rent concessions in December to support its pubs on core leased and tenanted agreements. The reductions are being offered to reflect tiers in England, with similar support aligned to pubs facing restrictions in Scotland and Wales. Tier one licensees are being offered a 30% rent concession, leaving 70% payable. Tier two licensees are being offered a 75% rent concession, leaving 25% payable if they choose to open or a 90% rent concession leaving 10% payable if they close or if they operate as a takeaway only. Tier three licensees are being offered a 90% rent concession leaving 10% payable if they close or if they operate as a takeaway only. The move takes Star Pubs & Bars’ investment in rent reductions to £40m since March. The company said its rent concessions will continue to remain under constant review, and will depend on any government policy alterations such as changes to tier restrictions and additional government support for the pub sector. Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “We are doing what we can to support our licensees through hugely challenging times, but the pub industry needs real meaningful government support to counter the draconian unjustified restrictions being imposed on it.” 

Tim Martin sells £5m of shares: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has sold £5m worth of shares in the company. Martin offloaded 431,500 of the company's shares at a price of £11.66 each on Tuesday (1 December), leaving the firm's founder with a 27% stake. He also sold £5m worth of shares in the summer. 

Bleeding Heart Restaurants completes CVA: Bleeding Heart Restaurants has successfully completed its company voluntary arrangement (CVA), advised by restructuring firm ReSolve. The four-strong restaurant group operates all its sites in central London. ReSolve advised Bleeding Heart to pursue a CVA, which would allow two of the restaurants, The Bleeding Heart Tavern and The Bleeding Heart Bistro, to continue trading. More than 94% of creditors agreed to the move. ReSolve partner Lee Manning said: “As a result of the very hard work and financial sacrifices by the group’s owners, together with the support of its long-standing creditors, two iconic restaurants will survive among the economic destruction effected by covid-19. While the pandemic has been catastrophic for the hospitality industry, there are still viable solutions available. However, those avenues will only be available to those operators that take action to assess their options sooner rather than later. We commend the Bleeding Heart group for making the tough decisions in a timely manner instead of waiting until the very end. This made all the difference.”
 
TRG updates opening statuses on Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito and Firejacks in England: The Restaurant Group (TRG) has updated the opening statuses on its Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito and Firejacks brands as England exits lockdown and enters the new tier system. It has also announced its Christmas menus at Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito sites. TRG is reopening 38 Frankie & Benny’s venues, seven Chiquito branches and three Firejacks sites in tier two areas for dine-in, click and collect and delivery. It will also reopen 38 Frankie & Benny’s and eight Chiquito locations in tier three for delivery and click and collect. Guests at Frankie & Benny’s in tier two will be able to tuck into Quattro Formaggi Ravioli, Camembert and Cranberry Burger, Pulled Turkey Pizza and Baileys Cheesecake. Vegans can enjoy Tuscan Soup, Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni and Orange and Chocolate Cake. These items are available as part of a set menu offering two courses for £14.99 or three for £17.99. At Chiquito, guests can get two courses for £15.99 and three for £17.99. Festive food twists include Turkey Tostada, Cranberry and Chorizo Nachos and Christmas Burrito – a beetroot and chia tortilla packed with pulled turkey, rice, beans, sour cream and cranberry salsa. For restaurants in tier three, festive dishes are available for click and collect and delivery.
 
The Pepper Collective reopens Soane’s Kitchen with star chef residency: Salt’s restaurant division, The Pepper Collective, has reopened its 70-cover Soane’s Kitchen with a host of chef partnership tie-ups planned. The west London cafe-restaurant, which is located in the original walled kitchen garden at Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery in Ealing, will welcome award-winning chef Hayden Groves for a month-long residency beginning on Thursday (3 December). His all-day dining menus will champion British ingredients and feature seasonal, colourful dishes. In addition to the menu in Soane’s Kitchen, Soane’s Kitchen Courtyard will be serving a selection of flatbreads from the outdoor pizza oven and drinks. The Pepper Collective group chief executive Andrew Fishwick said: “We are extremely excited to open the doors to Soane’s Kitchen once more and we are delighted to work together to shine a light on some of the UK food scene’s top talent. Hayden’s residency is a fantastic way to start Soane’s Kitchen’s new life and we look forward to welcoming back diners in the weeks to come.” Groves was named National Chef of the Year in 2013, Craft Guild of Chef’s Chef of the Year in 2006 and is four-time gold medallist in the Parade Des Chefs. The Pepper Collective works with a variety of industry-leading chefs including José Pizarro, Gizzi Erskine, Tom Brown, Alyn Williams and Jasmine Hemsley, with plans to launch a variety of dining concepts across the UK in 2021.
 
Edyn Group announces new site for its Locke brand will include brewery, distillery and Le Bab restaurant: Aparthotel operator Edyn Group has announced it will open the fourth London site of its Locke brand, in Dalston in January 2021. Kingsland Locke will house 124 of Locke’s signature studio apartments, as well as an on-site micro-brewery and gin distillery, all-day restaurant, working space, workout studio and coffee shop. The lower ground floor of Kingsland Locke boasts a large, naturally lit space that will transition from a relaxing atmosphere by day to a lively restaurant and bar at night. Edyn Group chief executive Stephen McCall said: “Kingsland Locke marks our fourth property to open in London and is a particularly exciting launch for us all. We are aiming to celebrate Dalston’s unique creative landscape and, in doing so, create an environment in which both travellers and locals feel at home.” The restaurant and drinks concept, Kraft Dalston, is a collaboration between German Kraft Brewery, Jim and Tonic Distillery and Le Bab. German Kraft Brewery was formed in 2017 by four school friends with a passion for craft beer. Jim and Tonic Distillery has operations in Elephant & Castle and Mayfair, and produces a variety of gins. Le Bab runs Middle East kebab-focused restaurants in Soho and Covent Garden, and this will be its fourth site.

The River Cafe to open new restaurant Sylvia’s in west London: West London stalwart restaurant The River Cafe, owned by Ruth Rogers, will open a new restaurant called Sylvia’s on Thursday (3 December). It is named after Rogers’ mother – a librarian and trade unionist – and will be located at the former meeting rooms of Richard Rogers Architects on Rainville Walk in Hammersmith. The food will be similar to The River Cafe but with a greater emphasis on winter vegetables as a main course, such as baked ricotta, roasted trevise, artichokes “alla romana”. Pasta, risotto and soup will be staples as expected plus The River Cafe desserts list. There will also be a pianist at the new site.

Eight freehold properties in Bloomsbury on market for £37m: Eight freehold properties in Bloomsbury have been placed on the market at £37m. Real estate company Colliers International has put the “Bloomsbury Portfolio” up for sale. The properties have circa 250 rooms in total and, until recently, were used as staff accommodation by a hotel operator. They range in size from a dozen bedrooms to 50 bedrooms, with prices ranging from £1.75m to £10m. They predominantly have planning consent for use as hotel or hostel accommodation, but also offer potential for a wide range of alternative uses, subject to planning permission. Colliers International, which is representing the private owner, is inviting offers for the entire collection, or for groups of properties or individual sales. Colliers International head of London Hotels Agency Colin Hall said: “It has taken our clients 40 years to assemble this portfolio, which now provides the very rare opportunity of eight freehold buildings becoming available at one time in the highly desirable neighbourhood of Bloomsbury. These properties are, in effect, superb blank canvasses for future development across a range of uses, including boutique hotel accommodation, hostels/poshtels, offices and residential development.” The eight properties in the Bloomsbury Portfolio are: Ferndale House in Argyle Square – two adjoining buildings with 34 bedrooms, guide price £4m; Florida House in Argyle Square– three adjoining buildings with 47 bedrooms, guide price £6m; 27 Argyle Square – single building with 12 bedrooms, guide price £1.75m; Oxford House in Tavistock Place – two adjoining buildings with 27 bedrooms, guide price £3.5m; 37 Tavistock Place – single building with 12 bedrooms and small shop unit (currently let), guide price £2m; 6 Coram Street – corner building with 21 bedrooms and 14 offices, guide price £5.25m; 64-65 Guildford Street – two adjoining buildings with circa 33 bedrooms; guide price £4.5m; and William Martin Court in Margery Street – modern building with 51 bedrooms and basement car parking, guide price £10m.
 
Paella Shack opens a permanent site in north London: Spanish street food concept Paella Shack has opened a permanent site in north London. The street food arm of the London Paella School has opened the venue in Highbury. Paella Shack founder Xavier Meroño has confirmed its dishes will still be available at markets across the capital while the new venue in Blackstock Road will be operating from Thursdays to Sundays, 11.30am to 9.30pm. According to Hot Dinners, the paella range includes rabbit, chicken, lobster, cod, cauliflower and garlic sprouts. The tapas line-up includes patatas bravas with brava and allioli sauces; trio of croquettes – prawn, spinach and cheese and serrano ham; padron peppers with spicy marinated halloumi cheese and crispy onion; calamares a la andaluza; and glazed spicy rosario chorizo in cider and garlic with butternut squash. Churros with chocolate are also available. All dishes were for available takeaway only but dining in became an option from Wednesday (2 December).
 
Hampshire-based operators acquire freeholds of three New Forest pubs they run: Hampshire-based operators Duane and Debbie Lewis have acquired the freeholds of three pubs that run in the New Forest. The couple have been in charge of The New Forest Inn in Emery Down for 12 years, The Trusty Servant in Minstead for almost a decade and The Royal Oak in Hilltop for five years. Now they have acquired the freeholds of the pubs, which all have bedrooms, in a deal brokered by agent Fleurets. The Lewises were able to secure funding from the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme through Cynergy Bank to help them with the purchase. They said: “With the ongoing situation with covid-19, we are confident with the support of our loyal customers and our amazing staff we will safely get through to ‘the other side’ of this pandemic and come back better and stronger than before.”

Chef Emily Scott goes from pop-up to permanent at Cornwall hotel: Chef Emily Scott is opening a permanent restaurant at Watergate Bay, in north Cornwall, following the success of a pop-up at the hotel there. Scott built her reputation heading the kitchen at St Tudy Inn and, this summer, took over the former Fifteen Cornwall building, offering her “hyperlocal” cuisine. Now Emily Scott Food, which will first open as a series of private festive pop-ups in December, ahead of a full launch on 31 March, will serve similar locally focused food to the pop-up. The hotel team is taking over space on the sea wall previously occupied by the Watchful Mary bar. The space is being customised with a retractable glass canopy to create more room for year-round dining, and a full kitchen. Scott told Insider Media: “The pop-up experience was one of the highlights of my career. We were fully booked two to three weeks in advance all summer, and I got to do everything I love – bringing people together, and making them happy with food and wine. But it was especially lovely because, with everyone’s lives so disrupted by the pandemic, people were really happy to be out together again.”

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