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Tue 7th Sep 2021 - Update: Russell Norman part of team behind Joe Allen relaunch, Chance & Counters receives investment
Russell Norman part of team behind Joe Allen relaunch: Russell Norman, the co-founder of Polpo, is part of the team relaunching the Joe Allen restaurant in London’s Covent Garden. The restaurant has remained closed since the pandemic took hold in March last year. It will have its soft relaunch from Friday, 17 September. It will not entirely be business as before for the spot, which has remained more-or-less the same since it first made a splash in Covent Garden in 1977 – albeit with the interruption of a “brick-by-brick” move from its original home in Exeter Street to its present home in Burleigh Street in 2017. Gary Lee is now executive chef. He is best known for his 17-year stint as executive head chef of the original Ivy in West Street. The chef will look after the restaurant’s stalwart dishes, among them a secret-but-not-really burger that’s always off-menu, and a classic Caesar salad, as well as a handful of new dishes, including a Portland crab and sweetcorn soup; and brick-flattened chicken topped with black eye bean salsa and accompanied by corn muffin, chicken gravy and plantain crisps. For Norman, it marks a return to Joe Allen, where he began his career in restaurants. He worked there from 1989 for a decade, first as waiter, then bartender, maître d’ and finally manager. Now he is returning to oversee a new addition to the restaurant, Joe’s Bar. Norman’s cocktail menu is being described as “creative but traditional”, and will include a revival of some old-world recipes, including the Jerry Thomas Manhattan, the recipe for which dates to the late 1800s. To go alongside the drinks, there will be a choice of bar snacks, including potato cigars served with blue cheese and the truffled egg toast that Norman had a hit with at the now-closed Spuntino. Of the new project, which he will look after as he opens his new restaurant, Trattoria Brutto, Norman told the Evening Standard: “Joe’s Bar at Joe Allen is the bar I always wanted to find in London but never could. It’s always exciting when an institution is revived and Joe Allen surely has to be one of the most influential and important London restaurants of the past 50 years. To be involved in the next chapter of this legendary theatreland watering hole is an honour and a delight.”

62 new additions to Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book are turning over £1.6bn: The next edition of the Propel Turnover & Profits Blue Book, produced in association with Mapal Group, will feature 62 new companies, which are turning over £1.6bn. It will be sent to Premium subscribers on Friday (10 September), at midday. The Blue Book will now feature 408 UK pub, restaurant, cafe and hotel operators with a total turnover of £30.7bn. The Blue Book has begun to reflect the economic damage of the pandemic with 200 companies reporting a profit and 204 reporting losses. The Blue Book, which is updated every month, provides an insight into UK operator turnover and profitability over five years, profit conversion and directors’ earnings. Premium subscribers also receive two other databases – the New Openings Database, produced in association with StarStock, and the Multi-site Operators Database, produced in association with Virgate, which are also updated each month. Subscribers also receive access to Propel’s library of lockdown videos and Friday Wrap interviews and now also have access to a curated video library of the sector’s finest leaders and entrepreneurs, offering their insights on running outstanding businesses in the sector. Premium subscribers also receive their morning newsletter 11 hours early, at 7pm the evening before our 6am send-out; regular video content and regular exclusive columns from Mark Wingett. Companies can now have an unlimited number of people receive access to Propel Premium for a year for £895 plus VAT – whether they are an operator or a supplier. The regular single subscription rate of £395 plus VAT for operators and £495 plus VAT for suppliers remains the same. Email jo.charity@propelinfo.com to sign up.

Chance & Counters receives six-figure investment from online gaming company Yogscast to ‘accelerate’ expansion: Board games cafe concept Chance & Counters has received a six-figure investment from online gaming company Yogscast to help the operator “accelerate” its expansion plans. Chance & Counters has three UK sites – in Bristol, Birmingham and Cardiff. Each venue has a library of more than 500 board games and a menu including craft beer, burgers and milkshakes. The company is aiming open a new flagship site in Bristol city centre before the end of the year, and will use the cash injection from Yogscast to help. Yogscast co-founder Lewis Brindley told Business Live: "We’re excited to be working with Chance & Counters. We’re big fans of its cafes and have learned plenty about building audiences that can help their next stage of growth. There’s a lot of crossover between our businesses and many of us here spend all our free time playing board games. Our investment will help accelerate some of their plans and create a great location where we can hang out, host live events and make awesome board game content for our community.” Yogscast is best known for gaming content on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch and has millions of subscribers and billions of video views. The company also publishes video games through its Yogscast Games arm, and held its first live events pre-pandemic, including YogCon in 2019. Chance & Counters co-founder Steve Cownie said: “The Yogscast creators have been super supportive of us since Chance & Counters was just an idea. When we started talking about what a partnership might look like, everything got very exciting, very quickly. Coaxing people into this cardboard habit is what we do best, and working with The Yogscast means we can do that at a whole new scale.”

Northern Ireland agrees to further relaxation of covid measures in hospitality settings: Ministers in Northern Ireland have agreed a number of further relaxations of covid-19 regulations in hospitality settings. Under the new rules agreed by ministers, which come into effect at 5pm on Friday (10 September), the maximum number of people who can meet indoors will increase to 15 people from four households. In hospitality venues, the requirement for table service will be removed and customers will be permitted to stand while consuming food and drink in outdoor settings. Customers will also be permitted to take part in activities such as playing pool or darts or using gaming machines. Dancing will again be allowed at weddings and civil partnership receptions and the requirement to purchase tickets in advance for live performances will be removed, as will the need for audience members to have allocated seats. First minister Paul Givan said: “Today is progress. We have taken on board the health situation and the wider societal, community and economic information as well. Other jurisdictions, England and Wales and Scotland, they are lifting their restrictions or have already lifted them. The Republic of Ireland has now set 22 October as its final date for all restrictions to go and we are moving to that position in Northern Ireland where ultimately we can have these issues dealt with through good advice, rather than having the law and enforcement.”

JD Wetherspoon to host Tax Equality Day by slashing 7.5% off food and drink: JD Wetherspoon will cut the price of all food and drinks in its pubs when it hosts a Tax Equality Day on Thursday, 23 September. The initiative, which will be available at 870 pubs, is to highlight the benefit of a permanent VAT reduction in the hospitality industry. Pubs and restaurants normally pay 20% VAT, but are currently only paying 5%. The reduced rate was introduced as part of measures to help the industry during the covid-19 pandemic. This rate is due to increase to 12.5% at the end of September, before returning in stages to its usual rate of 20% by 2022. Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin said: “Taxes should be fair and equitable. However, it is unfair that supermarkets pay zero VAT on food, but pubs and restaurants, in normal circumstances, pay 20%. Pubs have been under fantastic pressure for decades, owing to the tax disadvantages which they have with supermarkets. As a result of the VAT increase to 12.5 %, we will have to increase food prices by about 50p per meal. We urge the chancellor to create tax equality between pubs and supermarkets by making permanent the current VAT régime for pubs. He should note that the main impact of tax inequality is on high streets and town and city centres, which depend heavily on a diversity of prosperous hospitality businesses for economic, social and employment success.” The scheme will operate in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but alcoholic drinks will not be included in the deal in Scotland. The company’s airport and the Republic of Ireland sites are excluded.

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