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Thu 28th Jan 2021 - Propel Thursday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

UKHospitality vows to work with government on sector reopening as PM hints at March lifting of lockdown: UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls has vowed to work with the government to safely reopen hospitality after prime minister Boris Johnson announced the potential end of lockdown for Monday, 8 March. Johnson said he hopes easing of covid-19 restrictions can begin in early March through a “gradual and phased” process. Nicholls tweeted: “We look forward to working with government on the plan from 8 March to reopen hospitality safely and swiftly. Priority must be to ensure all are capable of trading and restrictions are proportionate, pragmatic and focused on maximum health benefits and minimum economic harm with support.” Johnson had been under pressure to release a date when lockdown will end and announced on Wednesday (27 January) he will give specific details on how and when it will take place in the final week of February. Factors will include death and hospitalisation numbers, progress of vaccinations and virus changes. Johnson ruled out the reopening of schools after the February half-term, instead setting a target date of 8 March. In a statement to parliament, he said the scientific data was not sufficiently clear to make any decisions now but he hoped to publish a detailed roadmap as the “picture became clearer”. He also announced plans for tighter border restrictions to combat new variants of coronavirus, confirming people arriving from high-risk countries will have to quarantine in hotels for ten days. Nicholls said: “Driving down cases and taking steps to eliminate new strains of the virus through enforcement of new and existing quarantine rules will help the pace of which restrictions are eased as part of the prime minister’s exit strategy, and hopefully lead to the reopening of hospitality sooner rather than later. It’s just as important, in the long term, that when travel resumes, the UK continues to have a strong reputation internationally as a safe destination and point of arrival to avoid acting as a longer-term deterrent to international visitors.” Johnson signalled the target date for the reopening of schools would be after the 15 million or so people in the top four vulnerable groups earmarked for vaccinations by mid-February would have had their jabs and have full protection. Johnson said: “We hope it will be safe to begin the reopening of schools from 8 March with other economic and social restrictions being removed thereafter as the data permits.”  

Industry News:

Carl Castledine to feature in latest Propel Premium ‘lessons of lockdown’ video: In a new series of Propel Premium “lessons of lockdown” videos, Ann Elliott, hospitality strategist, connector and advisor, talks to Carl Castledine, chief executive of holiday park operator Away Resorts, about looking at the opportunities that an “unlocked UK” will bring; the challenge of maintaining his sites; the adaptability of the people working in the sector; the long-term impact on holiday parks; and getting excited about change. The video will be released at 4pm on Thursday (28 January). 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 columns from Mark Wingett. Subscribers also receive access to our database of multi-site companies, which has grown to 1,600 businesses. An annual premium subscription costs £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers. Email anne.steele@propelinfo.com

MPs told hospitality ‘never been covid hotspot’, ‘no hard evidence’ 10pm curfew worked: Pubs, restaurants and cafes have never been coronavirus hotspots while there is no “hard evidence” the 10pm curfew worked, MPs have been told. Greg Fell, director of public health in Sheffield, and Dr Richard Harling, his counterpart in Staffordshire, said the bulk of transmission has always been in people's homes. Fell and Harling made the comments at a virtual House of Commons science and technology committee, where they were quizzed about the failings of NHS Test and Trace. Asked about the risk of transmission in hospitality venues, Fell told MPs on the committee: “Most of the transmission events are households, within households, or household to household transmission. Hospitality doesn’t crop up as a terribly big risk on our risk radar. There will have been transmission in hospitality, but it’s certainly nowhere near the top of my risk radar.” Meanwhile, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the curfew was a “policy decision” designed to limit the amount of time people spent indoors together – where covid spreads most easily. But he conceded the intervention was not backed up with any scientific proof because curfews “are not something you can model with any degree of accuracy”. The 10pm rule was introduced in September across England as part of national lockdown restrictions aimed at curbing the second wave of the epidemic. However it was heavily criticised by hospitality bosses who said it was damaging the already cash-strapped sector that has been brought to its knees by social distancing and lockdowns. Sir Patrick told the committee: “There's no real hard evidence on curfew times. What you can see across Europe and indeed in this country is that keeping people together longer in an indoor environment, where there's also alcohol, is likely to increase risk.” Sir Patrick also admitted there was very little proof showing targeting pubs, bars and restaurants with lockdown actually worked. He said there were strong indications hospitality settings drive transmission, but admitted: “We can’t give specific data on that and neither can anyone else around the world.”

Sector sales ‘fell by £200m per day’ in 2020, financial package vital to save businesses and jobs: Pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels lost almost £200m per day during 2020 as sales collapsed from £133.5bn in 2019 to £61.7bn in 2020, according to the latest UKHospitality and CGA Quarterly Tracker. UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls and CGA group chief executive Phil Tate have both called on the government to urgently deliver a package of financial support for the sector to ensure as many businesses and jobs as possible are saved. The tracker revealed a 54% drop in sales in 2020 – the equivalent of £8 per hour – for an industry that, in normal times, employs more than three million people and contributes many billions of pounds in tax to the Treasury. Recent CGA research indicated about 6,000 licensed premises in Britain closed permanently in 2020. Strict local and national restrictions on trading and socialising caused a particularly damaging drop in trade in the final quarter of the year, the tracker showed. Sales from October to December were worth just £14.3bn – down by £18.7bn or 57% on the last quarter of 2019. Nicholls said: “These figures are simply devastating. Hospitality was hit first, hit hardest and continues to suffer because of pandemic restrictions brought in. And sitting behind this massive loss of revenue is the dreadful, real impact on people’s lives and livelihoods across all parts of the sector and supply chain. It is also yet another stark reminder of the importance of having an exit strategy from the current lockdown and providing ongoing support for sector businesses. We need the chancellor to step up again in his forthcoming Budget to deliver a bold, wide-ranging package of financial support that ensures as many businesses and jobs as possible are saved and the sector returns to growth. An extension of the VAT cut and business rates holiday must be top of the menu.” Phil Tate, group chief executive of CGA, added: “With every week of restrictions, the sector loses more than £1bn of sales, hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs. Widespread closures over December, the busiest time of year for so many restaurants, pubs and bars, were a devastating final blow in a year of unprecedented challenges.” 

Contactless limit could rise to £100: The limit on a single payment using contactless technology could rise to £100 – more than double the current limit. The coronavirus pandemic has led to larger amounts spent via contactless payments, either using cards or devices such as smartphones. It has been less than a year since the limit was raised from £30 to £45. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it would consult “shortly” on a change in the rules. “It is important payments regulation keeps pace with consumer and merchant expectations,” the regulator said. “Recognising changing behaviour in how people pay, as part of a wider consultation, we will shortly be seeking views on amending our rules to allow for a possible increase in the contactless limit to £100.” The FCA can set the boundaries for payments, under its rules, but the card issuers would have the power to set the actual limits. To protect workers and consumers during the covid outbreak, an increase to the current limit of £45 was rushed through by the regulator in April last year. The amount spent on contactless hit a monthly record in August, boosted by the Eat Out To Help Out scheme and fewer coronavirus-related restrictions. A total of £8.4bn was spent on credit and debit cards using contactless during that month.

Fox – operators will need to find a way to help people get over the awkwardness of being together again: Mark Fox, chief executive of Roadchef, has said operators will need to find a way to help people get over the awkwardness of being together again when the sector eventually gets to reopen. Talking on Propel’s Lessons & Learning for Lockdown Three video, Fox said: “I think the behaviour that customers will find oddest to start with is the feeling of being together, because we have become so accustomed now to skirting around one another or crossing the road to avoid each other. I think this feeling will go, because we all want it to go. I think operators will need to find a way to help people get over the awkwardness, because that will be there, even with people you know. Operators who can find a way to quickly get through that and get people back on to the other side will do best.” Fox said the crisis has caused some of the less resilient businesses to fall by the wayside, but “that has been pending for some time, and that will be a good thing for the stronger brands and better run businesses”. He said: “The fact is the crisis has cleared out some of the chaff. These businesses were never making good returns but taking a little bit of the pie, which meant there wasn’t enough pie left for those doing a good job. That [clear out] will be actually helpful in the long term.”

WiHTL and McDonald’s launch programme to promote people from ethnic backgrounds as future business leaders: Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure (WiHTL) has partnered with McDonald’s to launch a programme to promote employees from ethnic minorities as future leaders in the sector. The Ethnic Minority Future Leaders in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure Programme was launched on Tuesday (26 January) with more than 20 high-profile companies represented including Bourne Leisure, Compass Group, Elior Group, Hilton, IAG, IHG, Greene King, Nando’s, Odeon, PizzaExpress, The Big Table Group, Wagamama and Whitbread. It aims to improve representation in leadership through identifying and investing in existing high potential ethnic minorities employees, creating opportunities for participants to learn from inspiring ethnically diverse industry role models and working with leaders across the industry to support their career progression. WiHTL founder and chair Tea Colaianni said: “It was truly inspiring to see more than 20 companies joining forces to develop our future talent from an ethnic minority background. Conversations about race are not easy but, together, we can create a lasting positive impact on our industry.” McDonald’s UK & Ireland chief executive Paul Pomroy added: “We all know we don’t have enough ethnic diversity at senior levels across most companies in the UK, and McDonald’s is wholly committed to making a positive step change ourselves. It’s important our people see the way in and the way up is accessible for all.” While there is “great” ethnic diversity at entry level across the sector, the 2020 WiHTL annual report “From Intention to Action” found 82.5% of companies have no black, Asian and minority ethnic leaders at board level.

BBPA welcomes brewers support from Scottish government, demands more help in Budget: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has welcomed the financial packages the Scottish government has announced for brewers north of the border but also wants a reduction in beer duty and an extension to the VAT cut to include alcohol in the UK government’s Budget in March. It also wants the UK government to extend the grant scheme across the rest of the UK. The Scottish government announced on Wednesday (27 January) a £7.3m cash pot for brewers, travel agents and indoor football centres to claim grants of £10,000 or £25,000 – with £30,000 payments to the country’s largest brewers. Brewers will not have to apply because a total of about 400 businesses will be approached by local authorities. The BBPA and Scottish Beer & Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “This announcement is much welcomed by Scotland’s brewers who have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic and it’s encouraging that government is listening to our concerns and those of our members. This Scottish government support package, while not replacing lost income, will help provide a bridge to the other side of the pandemic for many of our producers that have been responsible for a brewing renaissance in Scotland over the past decade. Scotland’s brewers will now be looking towards the chancellor’s Budget in March, where a reduction to beer duty and extension of the cut in VAT to include alcohol is vital to their continued operation. We hope the UK government also looks to replicate the support given to Scotland’s brewers to those across the rest of the UK.” The £10,000 grant will be awarded to businesses that have a rateable value of up to and including £18,000; £25,000 for premises that have a rateable value of £18,001 or above; and £30,000 for brewers only operating a property with a rateable value of more than £51,000 or production levels above 5,000 hectolitres in 2019. The Scottish government has allocated £3bn in business support since the start of the pandemic on top of support available through the UK government.
 
NRA warns raising minimum wage to $15 per hour will impose ‘impossible challenge’ on US restaurants: Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will impose an “impossible challenge” for the US restaurant industry, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has warned. The Raise the Wage Act 2021 has been introduced that would see the minimum wage in the US rise to $15 an hour by 2025. The last time Congress raised the federal minimum wage was in 2009, where it currently stands at $7.25 per hour. Currently, only Washington DC has a $15 minimum wage in place, while eight states – California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York – have plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour sometime over the next few years. The bill would also index future minimum wage increases to median wage growth so the value of the “minimum wage does not once again erode over time” and would phase out subminimum wages for adolescent workers and employees with disabilities. But the NRA has expressed concern small businesses will not be able to keep up with wage increases while recovering from the massive economic challenges from the pandemic. “The Raise the Wage Act imposes an impossible challenge for the restaurant industry,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice-president of public affairs for the NRA said. “While other businesses are starting to see a recovery, restaurants across the country are struggling to stay open amidst indoor dining bans or limits that have been in place for ten months. During a pandemic is not the time to impose a triple-digit increase in labour costs.”

Sales of alcohol-free beverages via UberEats app soar: Sales of alcohol-free beer, wine and spirits have increased by 480% so far in January versus the same time in 2020, according to food delivery platform UberEats. The data has been collected through the UberEats app with the company stating the move into lockdown may have brought an announcement from those taking part in Dry January to end the pursuit when, in fact, stoic Brits remained true to new year’s resolutions. UberEats also claimed sales of non-alcoholic cocktails had quadrupled versus January last year. It claimed Birmingham was the most committed city when it comes to Dry January, outpacing London in sales despite its smaller population. Manchester, Leicester and Leeds rounded off the top five. Data showed sales of 0% beverages are on an upward curve with sales in 2020 increasing by 8% versus 2019.

Job of the day: COREcruitment is working with a growing restaurant technology business that is recruiting for a senior account manager for a maternity cover contract. The position is open to remote working with regular commuting to London and will pay between £55,000 and £70,000. This role is about the growth and retention of some of the company’s biggest brands, managing your own work schedule as well as developing and nurturing a team of up to seven managers/executives. This role is strategic and will focus on building long-standing relationships with key partners and leadership within those businesses. This is about making this platform the go-to for your customers and ensuring a seamless service and delivery for your partners. While this is a maternity cover contract of circa nine months, there is the potential opportunity for a permanent contract. Anyone interested can email Kate@corecruitment.com with their CV.
COREcruitment is a Propel BeatTheVirus campaign member

Company News:

Deliveroo appoints chief marketplace officer: Deliveroo has appointed Eric French as chief marketplace officer, Propel has learned. French will have responsibility for the newly-created Marketplace Org within Deliveroo. He will have responsibility for the rider operations, customer care, restaurants, grocery and Editions functions. He will report directly to chief executive Will Shu, and also sit on the executive team. French joins Deliveroo from Amazon, where he worked for more than 15 years, holding a variety of finance and operating roles. Most recently, he was the vice-president for Amazon’s US Consumables business. In this role, he had responsibility for category leadership, product, technology, and private brands across the household, beauty, baby, and personal care product lines. The appointment comes at a time when Deliveroo is growing rapidly. The company now works with 140,000 restaurants and 110,000 riders across 12 markets. The company is focusing on areas including expanding its Editions delivery-only kitchens globally; working with more restaurants and grocery stores; and investing in new tools to help restaurants grow their business. A Deliveroo spokeswoman said: “We are excited Eric has joined in this new and important role at the company. He brings a huge amount of valuable knowledge and experience. He will work with the team to ensure we continue to improve our proposition for consumers, restaurants and riders. This will help us in our mission to become the definitive food company.”

BrewDog plans new BrewDog & Friends site in London: Scottish brewer and bar operator BrewDog plans to open a new site in London called BrewDog & Friends. Tweeting about the potential new opening with a picture of the inside of the proposed site, BrewDog co-founder James Watt said: “Excited to hopefully turn this amazing old building in London into a new amazing BrewDog brewpub. The concept would be called ‘BrewDog & Friends’ and we would invite brilliant breweries from all over the world to do brewing residencies in the facility. Fingers crossed!” Propel understands the location in question is part of an old power station in Wapping, east London, with the site set to include a significant outdoor space. 

Timothy Taylor’s appoints new estate operations director: Keighley-based brewer and retailer Timothy Taylor’s has appointed Paul Turner as its new estate operations director. Turner takes over from Steve Robinson who will retire on Friday (29 January) after more than 45 years in the industry. During his two years with Timothy Taylor’s, Robinson has helped with significantly transforming the company’s 19-strong pub estate, including the refurbishment of the Hare and Hounds in Hebden Bridge and modernising other sites such as the Woolly Sheep Inn in Skipton and Lord Rodney in Keighley. During his career, Robinson has worked for companies including Wilsons Brewery in Manchester, Isle of Man-based Heron & Brearley and north west brewer and retailer Robinsons. Turner joins from north west brewer and retailer Daniel Thwaites where his most recent role was as general manager of The Millstone in Mellor but for eight years he was an area manager responsible for looking after 50 tenanted outlets. Turner, who takes up his new role from Monday (1 February), said: “The pubs are in a great position and all looking forward to reopening whenever this becomes possible. My main task will be to build on the excellent work that Steve has done in furthering the development of the small but high-quality Taylor’s estate.” Timothy Taylor’s chief executive Tim Dewey said: “Although Steve has only been with us for two years, he has played a pivotal role in the development of our pub estate during that period and I am grateful for all of his efforts on our behalf.”

Thunderbird to replace Byron in Earl’s Court: Thunderbird Fried Chicken, the wings and fried chicken concept backed by TriSpan, is to further increase its presence in London, with an opening in Earl’s Court. Propel understands the Paul Gilchrist-led brand has secured the former Byron in Earl’s Court Road for an opening later this year. Thunderbird Fried Chicken also operates in Paddington (with Incipio Group), Charing Cross, and The O2, plus three dark kitchen units – in Croydon, Battersea and Shoreditch. Gilchrist told Propel the company hoped to secure a further two bricks and mortar sites before the end of the year. He said: “We will look to do more dark kitchen sites and partnership sites such as the one we have with Incipio in Paddington, but the brand will be built on us growing our bricks and mortar estate. There will be more opportunities to do just that as the year progresses but we will focus on getting the right sites in the right locations and for the right commercials for the business.” Propel revealed earlier this month Thunderbird Fried Chicken had launched a vegan delivery brand based around burgers and wings called Jackfruit Junkie, through the Shoreditch delivery kitchen. The Foodstars kitchen in Croydon will also deliver the plant-based virtual delivery brand. 

Ole & Steen secures first new opening for 2021: Danish baker Ole & Steen has lined up its first new opening of 2021, after securing the former Café Rouge site in Hampstead High Street, Propel has learned. The site, which is scheduled to open at the end of March, will mark the company’s first foray into north London. This latest store, the brand's 13th in total after it opened a site late last year in Notting Hill Gate, will have seating for 45 people inside as well as a lean bar and outside seating. The bakery will be open from 7.30am on weekdays and from 8am at weekends for takeaway, delivery and click and collect. Ole & Steen’s UK managing director Lee Nixon said: “We’re delighted to be adding a Hampstead bakery to our growing collection as we know our bakeries do very well in neighbourhood locations such as Richmond, Kensington, Canary Wharf and, more recently, Notting Hill, which we opened before Christmas. I know many people in Hampstead will already have visited our West End bakeries so I hope they will welcome us when we settle up the hill.”

St Peter's sold to private individuals: One of the UK's first craft brewers, St Peter's, has been bought by a group of private individuals for an undisclosed sum. St Peter’s was founded in Suffolk by John Murphy, who developed and ran the business for 23 years. A spokesman said: “He has now taken the difficult decision to retire and sell the business. He is delighted to have found a team that will continue his legacy and continue to make high quality, traditional beer.” The new owners are friends who have worked together and share a passion for beer. The new team will be led by chief executive Derek Jones, who has more than 20 years of global beer experience, including at Molson Coors and SABMiller. Jones said: “This is an exciting new chapter for St Peter's. It has strong roots and a very distinctive identity. It is a powerful platform from which to grow the business into the future. John Murphy had a clear vision for the brand, and we want to build on that. We will invest in the brewery in Suffolk from the outset to maintain quality while meeting growing demand. We believe the staff of St Peter’s have contributed enormously to the company’s success and are key to its future. We look forward to working with this excellent team and making some really good British beer.” St Peter’s is located in the grounds of the ancient moated St Peter’s Hall in the Suffolk countryside. It creates ale and alcohol-free beer in its iconic oval bottle, and in casks and kegs. It also owns and runs the historic Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell, London. Janet and John Murphy were advised by Dave McCarthy at DrinksAdviser.
 
Record-holding Welsh Michelin-starred restaurant will not reopen after lockdown: Welsh restaurant Plas Bodegroes, which held a Michelin star for 14 years, will not reopen after lockdown ends. The restaurant has entertained famous guests such as Demi Moore, Dizzy Rascal and Anthony Hopkins and seen talented chefs including TV chef Bryn Williams, Steve Stephens (Sosban and the Old Butchers) and Mark Threadgill, head chef at Portmeirion, work in its kitchen. Owners Chris and Gunna Chown have had the site up for sale for several years and secured planning to revert back to a private home and turned the commercial kitchen into a domestic one. After 34 years of ownership, the couple have announced they will not reopen after lockdown. Chris Chown told North Wales Live: “It is the end of an era but I feel we have left a very good legacy. The restaurant still holds the record in Wales for holding a Michelin star, at 14 years. We have left a legacy with the chefs that have come through the kitchen and some of the dishes created here. The hardest part has been telling our staff – that has been a real wrench. We have had a very loyal staff with a small staff turnover, one staff member has been here for 34 years. When we came here we turned a private house into a restaurant with rooms and now we are turning it back. We have gone full circle and have been involved from the start to the finish.” The Chowns will remain in the house temporarily and will potentially use it as a holiday let during the peak season. Plas Bodegroes remains on the market. 
 
Jollibee gets green light for fourth UK site: Jollibee, the Philippines fast food group, has been granted permission to open a new site in Nottingham that will create 70 jobs. The branch will open in the city centre’s Clumber Street, which had been earmarked by Metro Bank as a potential new site but it withdrew in 2019. Jollibee Nottingham will be the brand’s fourth UK site and has previously said it will be open by late spring. The business operates about 1,200 sites worldwide, selling fried chicken, spaghetti and burgers. Jollibee opened a restaurant in the former Select unit in Humberstone Gate in Leicester, in November last year, which created 50 jobs. Late last year, the company announced it has openings planned for Edinburgh, Leeds, Cardiff and a flagship site in London’s Leicester Square.

Hot Stone to open second restaurant next month: Japanese dining concept Hot Stone will open its second restaurant, in Fitzrovia’s Windmill Street on Sunday, 28 February. Following the success of the group’s first site in Islington’s Chapel Market, Hot Stone Fitzrovia will have a 50-cover restaurant and seven seat open sushi bar in the 1,300 square foot space. The menu will feature Ishiyaki food – inspired by the historic Japanese art of cooking on searing hot stones – alongside freshly prepared sushi, sashimi and seasonally changing hot dishes, such as 48-hour marinated black cod, Hamachi cheeks and fresh, home-made tofu will be introduced. Drinks include a curated list of sake by the glass, bottle and tasting flight, alongside old world wine, Japanese spirits and Sapporo and Kirin beer. Hot Stone co-founder and director Shrabaneswor Rai said: “We are delighted to be expanding the Hot Stone brand and to have found a new home in the heart of Fitzrovia. After an unprecedentedly challenging year for our sector, it’s fantastic to be growing, evolving and taking the Hot Stone concept to new audiences in central London.”

Leicester-based Indian restaurant Santhi withdraws from plans for Hinckley site due to pandemic: Leicester-based Indian restaurant Santhi has withdrawn from plans to open a second site, in Hinckley, due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The former home of Italian restaurant Rossini, in The Crescent shopping complex, was to be taken on by the company. Bosses at Santhi had set out to relaunch the venue offering Sri Lankan and Indian cuisine, with an express menu. The unit has been shut since March 2019, after a fire destroyed the bar area and caused smoke damage to much of the building. Terms had been agreed between Santhi and Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, which owns the block where the unit is, with ambitions to reopen the space once it had been refurbished. But the difficulties of the past year has forced Santhi to back out of the venture. A Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council spokeswoman told Leicestershire Live: “Unfortunately, given the uncertainty of the last year, Santhi decided it was unable to progress the lease of C6 (the former Rossini unit).”

Soho nightclub launches crowdfunding campaign to reopen as live music venue: London nightclub The Crobar has launched a crowdfunding campaign to reopen its doors as a live music venue. The Soho venue closed in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic, but saw punters worldwide raise money to pay its former bar staff. The club has now launched a £95,000 campaign on Crowdfunder as it plans to become a live music venue and bar. The crowdfund has so far reached £40,000, with owners aiming to open back up after pandemic restrictions are lifted. Owner Richard Thomas said “I’ve been here for 20 years and am so overwhelmed by the support. I have to admit, I did a little dance when we hit £40,000, as it gave me hope and more determination to save Soho and reopen the Crobar. I know we meant a lot to our customers, but I didn’t realise just how much!”

Rum distillery’s £10m plans meets Historic England opposition: A rum distillery has vowed to clean and protect a mining heritage site if it gets permission to build on the site in Cornwall. The Cornish Geothermal Distillery Company (CGDC) has plans to create a £10m geothermal rum distillery at United Downs, Gwennap, which is currently being used as a stock car racetrack. However, Historic England has raised concerns about the project. CGDC founder Matt Clifford stressed it has the budget to cleanse and spruce up the contaminated and tatty site and said it spent £100,000 investigating a nearby landfill site as an alternative but that has been deemed unviable. CGDC has applied for outline planning permission for a sustainable scheme, called the Celsius project, to mature and distil rum using heat generated by the UK’s first geothermal power plant at the United Downs site – which also powers up to 10,000 homes. The project recently received £75,000 from the government’s Green Distillery Competition grant scheme for projects that can cut carbon emissions and support new jobs. Historic England, the government’s advisory body on heritage, said to planners at Cornwall Council it believed the proposed development would damage the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site. Clifford told Business Live: “If we get our outline planning permission, we aim to take over the site and begin the process of decontaminating it and, we very much hope working with Cornwall’s World Heritage team, restoring all the precious features that have been neglected and damaged over decades.”

The Arc Cinema signs lease on Forge Island leisure development: Irish cinema operator Arc has signed on to be the lead leisure anchor at Rotherham’s Forge Island development. The Arc Cinema has exchanged a long-term lease with national urban regenerator, Muse Developments, at Forge Island, which will see a key area in the heart of the town centre repurposed into a mixed-use destination venue. The boutique cinema operator has six sites across the UK and Ireland, with a further two UK sites under construction and due to open this year. It specialises in providing a VIP cinema experience for the price of a standard ticket. There are also plans to include a new hotel, food and drink outlets and a car park at the development. Brian Gilligan, director at Melcorpo, which runs The Arc Cinema, said: “We were delighted to be selected by Rotherham Council and Muse to bring one of our cinemas to the Forge Island site. The large high-specification eight-screen cinema has been specially designed to ensure we become a leisure hub.” 

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