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Tue 15th Jul 2014 - Propel Tuesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

YO! Sushi to open first new restaurant in Edinburgh’s Princes Street in decades: YO! Sushi is to open the first new restaurant in Edinburgh’s Princes Street in decades. It comes after the council’s shops-only policy for Princes Street was rescinded. The first-floor restaurant will cater for 70 customers and the opening will also create 30 jobs. It is the brand’s third venue in the Scottish capital – with other restaurants based at Edinburgh Airport and on the fifth floor of Harvey Nichols in St Andrew Square – having previously closed a Rose Street branch. The company confirmed the restaurant would be moving into the former Clarks shoe shop – a unit that was once an artists’ haven – on Princes Street. No opening date has been provided as of yet. The plans also include a takeaway window opening on to the street, meaning shoppers in a hurry will be able to grab a sushi roll on the go. Last year, the city council relaxed planning rules to encourage cafes, bars and restaurants to move on to Princes Street, where the only food outlet is a McDonald’s. Andy Neal, chief executive of city centre business improvement district Essential Edinburgh, said high rents for pavement-level shop fronts means alfresco dining on Princes Street remains unlikely, but said more restaurants would follow YO! Sushi’s lead. “I think the use of the upper floors on Princes Street, many of which are frankly an embarrassment because they’re empty or used as storerooms for shops, which doesn’t show Edinburgh in the best light, so something that actually goes in and puts those floors to good use is something we support,” he told a local newspaper. “I think there will be several restaurants interested in taking up that first level, where you’ve still got fantastic views of the Castle, still have the heavy footfall, and the rents aren’t as expensive. I think this will probably be the start of a few restaurants coming into Princes Street.”

Industry News:

Nottingham adopts late-night levy: Nottingham has becomes the fifth local authority to adopt the late-night levy. Licensed premises that open after midnight will be liable for the charge that could see businesses charged up to £4,440 a year. Opposition councillors accused Nottingham City Council of not listening to its own consultation – which showed that 74% of people were against the plans. Members of the Nottingham Business Improvement District lobbied the council to be exempt from the charge and this was granted. Jeff Allen, chairman of the BID, said he was “delighted” with the news. He told The Nottingham Post: “It recognises the contribution that the Nottingham BID already makes to the evening economy through the various schemes and initiatives that it organises and funds which make a real difference when it comes to people being able to enjoy a safe and enjoyable night out in the city.” The money raised from the levy will be split 30/70 between Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire Police when the levy comes into force in November.

US restaurant manager blames mobile phones for slowdown in service times: A manager at a ‘busy New York City restaurant’ claims that customers constantly using their mobile phones are to blame for a dramatic increase in the amount of time it takes to be served in restaurants nowadays. In an anonymous post on the Craigslist ‘rants & raves’ board, the restaurateur claims to have reviewed surveillance videos from 2004 and 2014 and found a staggering difference in the average time it takes to service a customer. Following their research, the poster found that the average time that a customer spent in the restaurant from start to finish in 2004 was one hour and five minutes, while in 2014 the average time was one hour and 55 minutes.

Business district hosts fourth annual food festival: The fourth annual Colmore Business District Food Festival returns to Victoria Square in Birmingham on Thursday and Friday, 18 and 19 July, with some of the city’s best restaurants participating. More than 20 outlets, all within a ten-minute walk of Victoria Square, will be serving up food, wine, beers, cocktails and coffees, to showcase the hospitality offering in the business quarter. Newcomers to the Colmore Business District, including Pure Bar & Kitchen, Chung Ying Central, Isaacs and The Bureau, will be alongside long-established outlets such as Purnell’s, Metro Bar & Grill, Opus at Cornwall Street, Asha’s Contemporary Indian Bar & Restaurant and Hotel du Vin. There will be live cookery and cocktail-making demonstrations from top chefs in the district, including Glynn Purnell and David Colcombe.

Dusk ‘til Dawn: deadline for nominations closes this Wednesday: With nominations for this year’s Late Night Awards closing tomorrow (Wednesday), the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) is reminding members and non-members to nominate the best in the late-night sector. Over 60 nominations across six categories have already been made. The winners of this year’s Late Night Awards will be announced at the second annual Dusk ‘til Dawn awards ceremony on 14 September at the Birmingham Metropole. ALMR strategic affairs director and chair of the judging panel Kate Nicholls said: “We are delighted at the response from ALMR members and non-members alike nominating their favourite late-night businesses for this year’s awards. We have been very impressed with the nominations for this year’s awards which have been of the highest quality and really showcased the best the late night sector has to offer.” Anyone wishing to nominate for this year’s awards should visit the dedicated website:

Food blogger fined in France for negative review: A food blogger in France has been fined 1,500 euros ($2,040 USD) for writing a negative review of a restaurant. According to the newspaper Arret Sur Images, Caroline Doudet wrote an unflattering review of Il Giardino, an Italian restaurant in Cap-Ferret, France in August of 2013 on her blog Les Chroniques Culturelles. She was brought to court six months later by the restaurant. In the review, Doudet wrote that people should avoid the restaurant and that the boss is a “diva”. The team behind the restaurant believe that the “article was more of an insult” than a critique. Sud Ouest reports that the lawyer for the restaurant claimed that the post caused “great harm” to his client because when the restaurant was Googled, the negative review was one of the first results. The court asked the blogger to “change the title” of the article, but Doudet decided to delete the post the day after the hearing. Arret Sur Images reports that this is the first time an amateur blogger that doesn’t generate any income has been fined for writing a negative review.

Company News:

New Moon Pub Company acquires sixth site, in negotiations for three more: New Moon Pub Company, headed by Paul Newman and David Mooney, has acquired its sixth site, The Linenhall bar in Watergate, Chester, a free-of-tie commercial lease that was formerly a Fat Cat cafe bar. The company will install its menu until the end of the race season in September when a major refurbishment will be undertaken. The company is understood to have annualised turnover of circa £5.5m at its existing five sites with its first two openings, the Lord Binning and the Old Sessions House, achieving like-for-like sales of 18% and 23% respectively – The Old Sessions House will undergo a refurbishment shortly, less than two years after it opened, because of the volume of customers that have been using it. Mooney told Propel: “We aimed to have three sites within the first five years when we set the company up, which we’ve now easily exceeded.” The company’s most recent opening was Beef and Pudding in Manchester. Added Mooney: “We’re really pleased with the site – we see that as the concept we’re going to roll-out. We’re currently in negotiations for three other sites.” 

Luminar signs for new £1.2m nightclub in Swansea to replace Oceana, closed in May: The UK’s largest nightclub operator, The Luminar Group has signed a 25-year lease agreement on the former Odyssey building on Little Wind Street in Swansea. The company plans to invest £1.2 million to transform the 1,700 capacity venue into a stylish new late night venue with three distinct rooms, private pre-bookable booths, table service and a premium drinks offer. The refurbishment will create 60 new and part time roles. Commenting on the lease, The Luminar Group’s regional director Trevor Ellard said: “We’ve operated clubs in the city for over 30 years and were committed to finding another venue when we closed Oceana in May. The new site is in a great location which will give us a stronger platform to bring a different clubbing experience to Swansea.” Recently voted the UK’s best late night operator, The Luminar Group will start work on the site in early August with a launch date planned for late September.

JD Wetherspoon in stand-alone application to open Cambridgeshire hotel: JD Wetherspoon has won permission to convert the former Middle Level Commissioners office in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, to a hotel in a stand-alone application. Fenland District Council approved Wetherspoon’s application for the Dartford Road, March, Cambridge building which will see it become a 12-bedroom hotel. They also approved an application to extend the pub beer garden and build a barbecue area at its next door Hippodrome pub, which it has operated since 2011. A company spokesman said: “JD Wetherspoon intends to invest a significant sum of money into the refurbishment project which would bring new confidence to the area and establish a new hotel within the town centre assisting the regeneration of March. Daytime activity will be increased whilst the evening economy would be improved. Furthermore, a significant number of new jobs will be created, employing locally recruited staff.”

Rockwood Bar and Cue opens in Liverpool: A new bar and restaurant, specialising in dishes cooked on one of only two American grillworks BBQs in the UK, has opened in Liverpool. Rookwood claims to be only the second UK restaurant to import the grill from America, along with the Chiltern Firehouse in London. Aside from the BBQ restaurant, the venue also houses two bars, one that focuses on craft beers and an accompanying food menu, and the other a basement “dive bar” specialising in cocktails.

Douglas Jack – it’s time for a “Fayre and Square” valuation on Spirit Pub Company: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued a ‘Buy’ note on Spirit shares with a Price Target of 110p, arguing its time for a “Fayre and Square valuation” of the company. He said: “Our sum-of-the-parts valuation for Spirit as a going concern is 110p/share. This valuation is based on comparing Spirit’s asset quality and management track record to its peer group. It is not based on corporate activity, which would factor in multiple synergies such as purchasing, central overheads, rebranding and beer distribution. In our view, the shares offer attractive growth and re-rating potential. Spirit has generated the strongest like-for-like sales and margin growth in the licensed retail sector over the last three years. This partially reflects its market positioning, with a high orientation towards food-led managed pubs, which have consistently outperformed all other segments, including restaurants, in recent years. If the regional brewers succeed in repositioning their estates from tenanted to managed, in order to improve their growth prospects, one should expect their ratings to benefit as a consequence. This logic should imply that Spirit, which has one of the highest orientations to managed pubs, should be on an above-average rating. The vast majority of Spirit’s leased estate comprises former managed pubs. As a result, they have the highest average profitability in the leased sector, with attractive growth potential to be gained from its refurbishment programme and operational initiatives. Although it would be unrealistic to forecast Spirit to maintain the heady pace of growth it set in 2011-13, we still believe its growth prospects are strong, partly due to capex gravitating towards expansion and refurbishing the leased estate. We believe the balance sheet is in good shape with net debt/Ebitda falling to c.4x and the PLC having full access to growing cash reserves, forecast at £157m in 2014E, and rising. We believe our forecasts have conservative assumptions in relation to expansion and like-for-like profit growth in both estates. Despite generating the strongest earnings growth over the last two years, Spirit has the lowest valuation in the licensed retail sector. In our view, this reflects limited understanding of the strength of its PLC cash reserves. We clarify this position in this note and reiterate our ‘Buy’ recommendation.”

Caffe Nero lines up second US opening, pleased with response to the first: Caffe Nero is lining up its second US opening at 733 Centre Street part of the Jamaica Plain historic part of Boston, Massachussetts – the site is the former home of the Commonwealth Bank. Its first location is already open in the Financial District. Caffe Nero spokesperson Ceri Aiken said: “Caffe Nero are really pleased to have an opportunity to move to Jamaica Plain, as we recognise it as a great community. We are a European, family-run coffee house business and so far we have been delighted with the reaction from our [American] customers. We are hoping to open our second store sometime later in 2014 and will be talking to those in the Jamaica Plain community who’d like to know more about us in due course.”

Restaurant Group gets go-ahead for Northampton double opening: The Restaurant Group has been given the go-ahead to build a Chiquito and a Coast to Coast restaurant on the Sixfields site in Northampton, which has remained derelict since fire destroyed the Red Hot World Buffet building on 18 December last year. In the planning proposal, the company said it hoped to create 60 new jobs at the new restaurants, which would be open between 9am and 11pm. Chiquito is the UK’s largest Tex-Mex restaurant chain, with more than 70 sites and 100,000 customers each week. Coast 2 Coast is an American-themed restaurant and bar with its name based on the Lincoln Highway that spans the United States.

Third Costa Coffee set to go-ahead after Planning Inspectorate decision: A third branch of Costa Coffee will open in Hinchley Wood, after the Planning Inspectorate overturned a refusal for the premises. Plans to convert 30 Station Approach to the coffee shop were thrown out by Elmbridge Council in January because of “a loss of an existing retail unit”. But the brand, which already has express branches at the Shell petrol station and Budgens in Hinchley Wood, appealed the council’s decision weeks later. In her report, planning inspector Roisin Barrett granted permission for the store, which has been vacant for more than 14 months, but prevented Costa from cooking unprepared food on the premises, only allowing reheated or cold food that has been prepared elsewhere to be served at the shop.

Iberica lines up fifth opening, first outside London: Iberica, the Spanish restaurant brand led by three Michelin star head chef Nacho Manzano, will open on The Avenue in Spinningfields this autumn. The 200-cover restaurant will be the fifth site opening for Iberica restaurants and the first outside of London. Located in the corner unit previously occupied by clothing brand All Saints, Iberica is part of a revamp for The Avenue which has already seen new food and drink openings this year, including Wahu, Thaikhun and Fazenda. Michael Ingall, chief executive of landlord of Allied London said: “The Avenue is evolving into its next generation. It is going to be a great mix of premium retail and high quality restaurants, to achieve our vision and create for Manchester something that is akin the New York meatpacking scene. We have wanted to curate and carefully select the right restaurants and Iberica is right at the top of that list.”

Plan for Bradford brewpub unveiled: Ambitious plans have been unveiled to create a new state-of-the-art brewery and brewpub in the heart of Bradford City Centre. The launch of Bradford Brewery will see the return of brewing to Bradford city centre for the first time since the closure of Hammonds Bradford Brewery in 1955. Bradford Brewery and its attached pub, The Brewfactory, will be launched later this year following the restoration of an historic disused industrial building off Westgate, Bradford. The 10 BBL brewery will have an initial production capacity of 16,000 pints per week. The £400,000 brewery project is part-funded by a grant from Bradford Council Growth Zone – a £35m initiative to attract businesses back into the city centre and to equip the local community with the skills they need to get the jobs. The grant money which will go towards refurbishing the building and buying the equipment. The entrepreneur behind the new brewery, former pub licensee Matthew Halliday, believes there’s a fast-growing local and national market for interesting and innovative craft-brewed lagers and ales, with microbreweries coming to the forefront. He has most recently spent time in the capital as chief executive of a London-wide health charity. He said: “The idea to launch Bradford Brewery came from my love of London’s craft beer drinking scene. Yorkshire is slowly catching up but we’re still a long way behind.” The building is on four storeys and the plan is to house the brewery and pub on staggered levels. The scheme will pay homage to the factory heritage with aptly-named bar areas like the Workshop and Calibration rooms. One striking feature will be a glass wall allowing customers to look directly from The Brewfactory bar into the brewery so they can watch the beer being brewed while they imbibe. A planning application has been submitted to Bradford Council seeking permission to convert the building, known as Shaw House – once the headquarters of Shaw’s Moisture Meters.

Sui Generis applies to turn restaurant into nightclub: Nightclub and bar operator Sui Generis has applied to convert The Taj Mahal Indian restaurant in Stevenage High Street, which closed in June, into a nightclub. Developers have now submitted an application to Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) asking for change of use permission. The club would form part of current bar Venue – which would be rebranded under the plans. The bar’s opening times would be 11am-2.30am from Monday to Saturday and 11am until midnight on Sundays and bank holidays. The application states that 12 full-time members of staff would be taken on if approved. A spokesman for the Sui Generis chain said: “We believe a new bar and nightclub would be much appreciated by the people of Stevenage and add something new and refreshing to the town’s nightlife.”

Pair who were first Starbucks franchisees in world talk about relationship with the company: Mark Hepburn and Anil Patil, who became the first Starbucks franchisees in the world last year and since opened ten Starbucks sites, have talked about their involvement with the coffee company. The pair opened the world’s first Starbucks franchise, in Liphook, Hampshire, in February 2013. “Up to that point they’d done licence agreements with corporate companies,” Hepburn said. “Traditionally, on the high street, they’ve done them themselves. We were the franchise test bed for the world.” Hepburn, 42, has 25 years of experience in the fast food business, a mixture of corporate operations and franchises. Patil, 40, was a barrister and his wife was a solicitor. They set up a Domino’s Pizza franchise and eventually owned 18 Domino’s operations, which Patil sold last August. The two got together through Hepburn’s wife, a recruitment consultant, and heard that Starbucks was intending to launch franchising opportunities. Their company, 23.5 Degrees, is named after the latitude measurement where the ‘coffee belt’ can be found. The Liphook operation was a success and their third Starbucks franchise was at Bournemouth’s Triangle. Hepburn said Starbucks took a keen interest in the business: “They want to know what you’re like as an operator and a person. Starbucks are a very people-focused business. They want to know the people working for the franchise represent the same ethic and integrity as if they were working for Starbucks,” he said.

Fat Cat founder bounces back with two openings in Leicester: Matt Saunders, founder of the Fat Cat chain of cafe bars that went into administration last year and partner in four-strong Nottinghamshire gastro-operator Moleface, has bounced back with two openings in Leicester, it has emerged. He opened Candystripe, a late-night venue in Belvoir Street, and now The Queen of Bradgate, his first pub venture in Leicester. In his 22 years in the industry – The Queen is his 30th pub opening – he has seen a great many changes. Pubs can now stay open 24 hours, though few do, which, he says has made for a shake-up in drinking culture. “Young people now leave home for a night out at 11pm, rather than 8pm or 9pm,” he told The Leicester Mercury. “Also, the supermarket policy of low-price drinks is not good for pubs – I can buy beer at my local supermarket cheaper than I can from the brewery.”

Ned’s Noodles secures third site: Ned’s Noodles, the eat-in or takeaway noodle brand that serves noodles in the original American ‘pailor’ boxes, has secured a third site, located on 21 Pitfield Street, London, with rent of £24,000 per annum. Cedar Dean Gilmarc property consultant Emma Cousins acted for Ned’s Noodles. The brand already has sites in London’s Belverdere Road and on the Food Terrace in Basilson, Essex. It closed a site in Westbourne Grove.

Chicago Rib Shack lines up fourth opening: Chicago Rib Shack is opening a fourth site, new 60 cover restaurant in Clapham, south London, later this month. Located just off Clapham High Street, the restaurant marks a return to a town centre site for the barbecue brand after a recent focus on food courts in shopping malls. Director Christian Arden said the Clapham site “is a welcome return to the restaurant sector for Chicago Rib Shack, as an established operator.” He described this month’s opening as “a very soft launch”, with the site scheduled to be fully trading by September. Chicago Rib Shack traded from a high profile Knightsbridge location until 2012, when it sold the site to Buddha bar after receiving what Arden described at the time as a ‘fabulous’ offer. The brand currently trades at three shopping centre locations, in Westfield Stratford, Southampton West Quay and Leeds Trinity. 

125 Church Street to open in the autumn: 125 Church Street, a new cafe bar and events space, will open in Stoke Newington this September. Behind the launch are Marc Dalla-Riva and Matthew Rix, who also own and run the successful The Blacksmith & The Toffeemaker pub in Clerkenwell, and are currently overseeing a refurbishment of the site. When it’s finished, it will offer coffee and snacks – including speciality doughnuts – during the day, and craft beers, wines and premium spirits in the evening, alongside a menu of US-inspired sandwiches, such as grilled cheese, or Cuban. The ground floor will offer banquette-style seating, and a sofa area overlooking the spacious terrace and 25 foot garden. 125 Church Street will be open daily, from midday until late.

Wedding venue owners open first pub: Mariella and William Fleming, who own the Southend Bars wedding venue in West Sussex, have opened their first pub after six months renovation. The Blacksmiths, in Donnington, near Chichester has three uniquely furnished double bedrooms and a large garden area with outdoor seating, fire pits and a herb and salad garden. “This has been a fantastic project for us,” said Mrs Fleming. “We’ve renovated the pub into a space we’re incredibly proud of and we hope customers will share our enthusiasm for The Blacksmiths, its delightful menu and wonderful country atmosphere. The pub was unused for over a year and we hope to make it an enjoyable hub for the community and visitors.”

Adam Hyman – Food Joint to open second site: Restaurant consultant Adam Hyman has reported that The Food Joint is to open a second London restaurant. Hyman said: “The BBQ restaurant in Brixton market has taken the former SLABS site on New Cavendish Street in Marylebone. The Food Joint was founded by Warren Dean and Daniel Fiteni. The new venue is expected to open later this year.”

First Drinks rebrands as William Grant & Sons: First Drinks has been renamed William Grant & Sons UK in a bid to reflect “the rich heritage of William Grant as one of the world’s finest distillers”. The company has been wholly owned by William Grant since 2006, distributing the family’s brands along with third-party brands such as Piper-Heidsieck. Managing director Chris Mason said: “Becoming William Grant & Sons UK will allow us to benefit from the international footprint of our group, with its fine reputation as innovators and builders of premium, international brands.”

Pret A Manger goes for “shock and awe” in Boston, Masachussetts with $7.99 lobster roll: Pret A Manger has launched a full frontal assault on the traditional Massachusets lobster roll market by adding a $7.99 Maine Lobster Rolls and Maine Lobster Salad to its summer menu in the state – lobster rolls normally retail for around $20. The Maine Lobster Roll is “made with chunks of lobster, mayo, a tricolor veggie mix, basil, lettuce from Satur Farms, and a hint of lemon sandwiched between Pret’s buttery artisan brioche roll”.

Stockport now has its own ‘tube style’ map of area pubs: Mathematics teacher John Coats and JJM Designs have produced a tube-style guide to pub in Stockport called Pub Stops design. The design displays 177 pubs and bars of Stockport and surrounding towns (including Cheadle, Cheadle Hulme, Heaton Chapel, Woodley, Romiley and Hazel Grove) set out in the distinctive style of the London underground map, each pub being marked as a stop or interchange. The poster has been produced in association with Robinsons Brewery. Coats has produced a number of Pub Stops designs for other cities and regions of the UK – the first design was for his home city of Sheffield nine years ago. Commenting on his pub maps he said: “I have to admit to being a bit taken aback at its success. These are obviously a great gift item, but I think there is something about the local pub and the way that pubs are such important landmarks that appeals to people. There are now over 50 designs in the series, including designs for Manchester, Liverpool, and Chester with the Stockport design now joining the ranks. We’ve had a lot of requests for this design – we’re just sorry we’ve taken so long to produce it!”

Young hoteliers plan third boutique hotel: Young British hoteliers Charlotte Newey, aged 27, and Justin Salisbury, 26, will open their third boutique hotel in London’s Pimlico district in September. The pair already has hotels in Brighton and Penzance and the third property will be located a ten-minute walk from Victoria train station. With just ten bedrooms, including two suites, it will have a low-key vibe using rustic reclaimed floor boards, and vintage furniture but with contemporary bathrooms. The hotel is teaming up with chef Michael Bremner, of Brighton eatery 64 degrees, to offer in-house dining. The hotel on Cambridge Street will also have a cocktail lounge.

The first micro-pub in North Staffordshire opens its doors: The first micro-pub in North Staffordshire has opened its doors after undergoing a refurbishment. The Bridge Street Alehouse is on the site of a former antiques shop in Newcastle town centre. Owners Graham Newbury and Tansy Harrison, who had been running the Enterprise Inn-owned Red Lion, in Hartshill, for three years, received approval from the borough council to transform the former shop in May. A micro-pub is a traditional pub that focuses on beer and conversation, with no karaoke, games machines and other modern features.

Heineken launches milestone mobile change: Heineken is letting city dwellers around the world plan their nights out directly from Twitter using real-time location-based social activity to recommend where they should go next, Marketing Week reports. The magazine added: “The @wherenext service launches (yesterday) as a key part of the brewer’s push to appeal to contemporary men in 100 countries worldwide. Billed as a “milestone” in its mobile charge, Heineken is using an R/GA developed algorithm to serve night spots that are trending based on tweets, check-ins and photos across social networks Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare. All a user has to do is tweet ‘@wherenext’ and their location, for example ‘@wherenext Peckham’ and the service will do the rest. A mobile responsive site can also be accessed for a closer look at the suggestions, including a local a local heat map and live Instagram imagery for each venue. The service stems from research that found consumers from different cities want to experience new places to heighten their social currency.”

Nightclub company No Saints goes through pre-pack: No Saints, the operator of Wonderland nightclubs and Jam House led by Luminar founder Stephen Thomas, has undergone a pre-pack administration. Administrator FRP Advisory began a sale process in late June with 26 interested parties issued with details of the business. Final offers were submitted at the start of July with No Saints existing management bidding £1,730,000 successfully for the seven trading sites under a vehicle called Exeat Leisure. The administrator had been advised that No Saints seven trading sites had a value of between £1,015,000 and £1,550,000 on an Ebitda multiple of one to two times. The remaining non-viable assets had a value of between £105,000 and £427,000. The deal completed subject to the effective rollover of the secured chargeholder indebtedness via the issue of new bonds on the same terms to Exeat Leisure for £1.41m with the balance of £320,00 to be paid in stages. One offer was received of £1.1m for Jam House Birmingham and Wolverhampton only. An improved offer of £1.75m was received after the deadline for all seven sites subject to due diligence. The offer was declined because an exclusivity period was in place with Exeat Leisure. No Saint operated nightclubs in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Milton Keynes, Maidstone, Sutton and Wolverhampton – the Wolverhampton and Milton Keynes sites are former Oceana venues opened originally by Stephen Thomas’s former company. Last month saw sites in Norwich and Southampton close. On the decision to place No Saint in administration, Chris Pearce, of the administrator, said: “The group’s senior management have advised me that the cashflow problems across the group stem from a shift in the industry where traditional nightclubs have become less fashionable venues. No Saints Group previously operated clubs in Swansea, Basingstoke, Banbury, Southampton and Norwich but these sites were not sufficiently profitable to keep open. The poor trading at these sites together with the necessary closure and restructuring costs have caused cash pressure within the remainder of the business leading management to take insolvency advice. At the time of my appointment, rent arrears across the sites stood at £761,000 with the respective landlords. Losses for the period 1 October 2013 to 31 May 2014 were £657,000 before further impairments to the balance sheet. The May 2014 balance sheet shows net assets of £1.1m with current liabilities of £258,000. Hawk Holdings and Brendan Quinn hold debentures with cross guarantees across the group. Hawk are currently owed £786,000 and Brenda Quinn is owed £618,000 with current interest to be applied. Both chargeholders had confirmed that they are unwilling to invest funds given the financial position. It was evident that there are irreversible arrears owing to the respective landlords, which the company is not in a position to pay. Trading at the Maidstone club had deteriorated significantly following flooding earlier in 2014 and the leases in Southampton and Norwich were considered onerous.” The administrator reported that No Saints contacted shareholders to assess the appetite for a rights issue of at least £700,000. Sufficient support was not forthcoming by the deadline of Monday 23 June. HMRC is owed circa £200,000 in VAT by No Saints. No Saints reported a £3.4m loss in the seven months to September 2012. Thomas told Propel last year that the £3.4m loss occurred after a third and fourth round of fund-raising did not materialise, and the company had to write down the value of a number of venues where investment was no longer possible and sites were surrendered back to landlords. Losses on the write-down of the value of assets and discontinued sites amounted to £3m. Trading losses of around £400,000 account for the remainder of the loss but the continuing business was profitable after central costs over the course of that full year. The company, split into Jam House and Dancing Division segments, was forecast to make around £1.5m profit on turnover of around £16m this year. Thomas told Propel: “We haven’t done as well as we’d have liked but it is nothing to do with operational excellence. This is a profitable business: we had a series of site issues around lease and capital commitments to sort out after our third and fourth tranche of funding did not come through. We had to focus on our profitable sites.” Thomas also said at the time that the Jam House division made £460,000 Ebitda from its sites in Edinburgh and Birmingham, and the Dancing Division, which includes four sites where the company holds an investment and four sites it wholly owns, has made Ebitda of £609,000 in the most recent full year.

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