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Thu 3rd Dec 2020 - Update: Jersey, Prezzo, Eddie Gershon, Vue, Prezzo, Sainsbury’s
Jersey announces hospitality sector circuit breaker: Pubs, bars and restaurants in Jersey are set to close from 00:01 GMT on Friday for up to a month in order to tackle a surge in covid cases. The “hospitality circuit breaker” announced on Wednesday comes amid fears health services could be overwhelmed. Food and hospitality outlets, except takeaways, will have to shut. All shops can stay open, but indoor sport and fitness classes and gyms must close and the 2m (6.6ft) distancing law is to be brought back into force. Chief minister John Le Fondre said the recent rise in cases on the island presented “a real and immediate risk to health services... and islanders’ lives”. The circuit-breaker measures are expected to remain in place until 4 January. There are currently 331 active cases on Jersey with the majority – 231 – symptomatic and eight cases being treated in hospital. On Wednesday, 56 new covid cases were identified, the biggest daily total of new infections recorded so far. Senator Le Fondre said Jersey’s R number was currently between 1.4 and 1.9, which “means each case is, on average, passing the infection on to more than one other person”. “This is too much and we need to introduce more stringent restrictions to protect islanders.”

Polpo co-founder buys back remaining two sites out of administration: Richard Beatty, the co-founder of Polpo, has bought the concept’s two remaining sites back out of administration, for a total consideration of £30,000, Propel understands. Polpo, the restaurant business founded in Soho in 2009 by Russell Norman and Beatty, was placed into administration earlier this summer. Edward Avery-Gee and Jonathan Avery-Gee, of CG&Co, were appointed joint administrators for the business, which operated sites in Beak Street, Soho and Duke of York Square, Chelsea. Beatty and his wife, chef Florence Knight, bought back both sites under new vehicles The Polpo Chelsea Trading Company and The Polpo Soho Trading Company, for £15,000 plus VAT each, saving circa 40 jobs. Earlier this summer, Norman stepped down as director of Polpo. The business underwent a company voluntary arrangement last year. Earlier this year, Propel revealed the business had placed two of its sites in the capital, in Farringdon and Covent Garden, on the market through property adviser CDG Leisure. It also closed its remaining regional site, in Brighton. Last year, the company put its Polpetto site in Soho’s Berwick Street and eponymous restaurant in Notting Hill Gate up for sale, with the former taken over by all-day concept The Breakfast Club.

Wetherspoon opens new pub in Battersea, extends contract with Eddie Gershon for five years: JD Wetherspoon is opening its new pub in Battersea, today (Thursday, December 3). The company has spent £860,000 developing the outlet, on the site of the former Revolution cocktail bar, on Lavender Hill, near Clapham Junction Station. Wetherspoon has taken on 22 members of the existing staff from Revolution. The pub is called The London and South Western. Meanwhile, JD Wetherspoon has retained its PR agency Gershon Media Relations for a further five years. Gershon Media Relations has undertaken all of Wetherspoon’s PR, including financial PR and crisis management, since 1990. In addition it runs the company’s press office and produces eight Wetherspoon News magazines annually. Gershon Media Relations is run by former journalist Eddie Gershon.

Vue asks landlords for more time over rent: Vue International has handed an ultimatum to its British landlords demanding that they agree to defer rent repayments for up to three years or face a possible company voluntary arrangement. The cinema chain has given landlords until next week to agree to a repayment schedule over 24 months from September next year. If it does not receive backing from 90%of them, it will “explore all options”. A landlord who contacted The Times said: “They made clear that if they couldn’t get the necessary landlord approvals, then they would have to explore alternatives. The clear implication is that they would resort to a CVA.” The demand came as Vue warned in its latest accounts that coronavirus-related restrictions and a doubtful film release slate had cast “significant doubt” over its ability to continue trading. According to accounts for its UK and Ireland operations, filed at Companies House, it has secured waivers on certain debt covenants based on maintaining liquidity of at least £30m, but it said there was a risk that weak cinema admissions meant that it might not be able to achieve that. The group, which was founded in 1999, is Britain’s third biggest cinema operator, with 90 sites. It has a total of 228 sites in ten countries. It is controlled by Omers and the Alberta Investment Management Corporation, two Canadian investment firms.

Cain – vast majority of Prezzo sites to be retained: Cain International, the privately held investment firm led by Jonathan Goldstein, which yesterday acquired the Karen Jones-chaired Prezzo, has said that the vast majority of the group’s 180 sites will be retained. Despite recent fears over the brand’s future, Goldstein told The Times, Prezzo was being taken over as a going concern, rather as part of a restructuring, and that the “vast majority” of the sites would be retained. The price was not disclosed, although Goldstein said that he was acquiring its equity and its £57m of debt. The new investment, which includes co-financing by Prezzo’s management team, will support the 180-strong business’ ambition to become the “UK’s favourite Italian” and “help reinvigorate high streets across the UK as they rebound from the covid crisis”. Two years ago, Prezzo underwent a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) that saw one third of its circa 300 sites close and a subsequent debt-for-equity swap completed. Private equity firm TPG took Prezzo private in a £303.7m deal at the end of 2014.

Compass Group launches business to produce Scotland’s next hospitality providers, chef Tom Kitchin on board: Contract caterer Compass Group UK & Ireland has launched Compass Scotland to provide an apprenticeship scheme to develop the next providers of hospitality in Scotland. Compass Scotland is led by managing director David Hay – in partnership with Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin – and will provide “innovative, sustainable and high-quality catering and support services across sectors including education, workplace catering, defence, sports and leisure”. The project will create and develop an apprenticeship scheme, taking employees from level two to degree level six. Kitchin is the scheme’s culinary ambassador and will see him contributing to the apprenticeship and training programme, and working closely as a consultant for Compass Scotland. Hay said: “Our size and scale sets us apart and this new era of Compass Scotland will take us from strength to strength, while recognising the need for our sector to focus on skills and development. At the heart of our business is the Scottish leadership group, a team of experts that continues to focus on learning, customer-focused service and sector innovation. The opportunities offered through our apprenticeship scheme will enable employees to change or enhance their careers.” Kitchin added: “I am really looking forward to working with Compass Scotland and the many exciting projects with the team, plus helping to bring through the next generation of Scottish hospitality.” 

Sainsbury’s to forgo £450m business rates relief: Sainsbury’s is to join Tesco and Morrisons in forgoing £450m of business rates relief granted by the UK government and the devolved administrations since March. Chief executive Simon Roberts said: “We have been proud to play our part in feeding the nation in this extraordinary year and every one of our colleagues has gone above and beyond to support each other, our customers and our communities. While we have incurred significant costs in keeping colleagues and customers safe, food and other essential retailers have benefited from being able to open throughout. With regional restrictions likely to remain in place for some time, we believe it is now fair and right to forgo the business rates relief that we have been given on all Sainsbury’s stores. We are very mindful that non-essential retailers and many other businesses have been forced to close again in the second lockdown and we hope that this goes some way towards helping them. We remain focused on delivering the plan we set out at our half year results. We continue to urge government to review the business rates system to create more of a level playing field between physical and online retailers.”

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