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Wed 10th Dec 2014 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Alan Yau starts recruiting for Duck & Rice and Babaji Pide: Alan Yau is recruiting staff for his two long-awaited new Central London sites, the "Chinese gastropub" Duck & Rice and the Turkish pizza restaurant Babaji Pide. Rumours of the two operations' opening have been circulating since 2013. Yau, the man responsible for Wagamama, Busaba Eathai, Yauatcha and Hakkasan, among other ventures, has converted the former Endurance pub in Berwick Street, Soho into what is claimed to be London's first Chinese gastropub. It will offer authentic, ethnic "Chinese comfort food" in the first-floor restaurant and a "good choice" of drinks in the ground floor bar, with ten beers on tap, including cask ale of "exceptional quality", according to its recruitment ads. Babaji Pide, an all-day restaurant offering contemporary, authentic Turkish cuisine, with pide (Turkish pizza), "central to the menu", is due to open on the corner of Wardour Street and Shaftesbury Avenue in Soho. Yau's wife Jale Erentok, managing director of Busaba Eathai, is Turkish. Yau is also due to open Park Chinois, a 12,000 sq ft fine dining Chinese restaurant set over two floors on the site of the former Automat restaurant in Dover Street Mayfair in 2015. The 450-cover restaurant will serve "eclectic dishes from across the regions of China in a dining room setting that is classic in design". It will be open for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, with live piano and string quartets during the afternoon and earlier parts of the evening and later jazz and swing "at volumes that will allow our guests to talk easily and enjoy the experience".

Industry News:

Professor Chris Edger to hold Multi-Site Management Masterclass: The UK’s leading thinker and teacher on multi-site management, Professor Chris Edger, will be holding his second Multi-Site Management Masterclass, in partnership with Propel, on Tuesday 24 February at One Moorgate Place, in the City of London. Professor Edger, who has just published his latest book, Leading at a Distance in Multi-Unit Enterprises, will focus on how area managers can create organic growth through the three-step process of engagement, execution and evolution. Professor Edger currently teaches at City University, Birmingham, where a number of the sector’s leading companies send their general managers to be taught. His one-day seminar will include live contributions from senior UK executives. Paul Charity, managing director of Propel, said: "This is a great chance for multi-site companies to refresh their thinking – and the thinking and expertise of key staff – as 2015 gets under way." Tickets are £295 plus VAT for ALMR members and £345 for non-ALMR members. CLICK HERE for more details or e-mail to book.

Heineken UK responds to Wetherspoon de-listing: Heineken UK has responded to the move by JD Wetherspoon to remove its products from its entire estate after a row over the supply of Heineken and Murphy’s to its second Irish site. The move is estimated to involve £60m of annual Heineken sales. A spokesman said: “We are aware of the comments made by JD Wetherspoon (JDW) and its chairman. Heineken UK has had a long-standing and successful relationship with JDW in the UK market over a 35-year period, and it is unfortunate that commercial issues in Ireland between Heineken Ireland and JD Wetherspoon have led to the current situation. We are seeking a resolution as soon as possible.”

Camra – 600 pubs are now listed as Assets of Community Value: Camra, the Campaign for Real Ale, has announced reaching 600 pubs listed as Assets of Community Value, after a campaign to encourage local groups to register pubs as ACVs. However, Camra says that with 31 pubs still closing every week more needs to be done to protect pubs, with the government letting communities down by allowing conversion of pubs to supermarkets without planning permission. Tom Stainer, Camra's head of communications, said: “The government introduced Assets of Community Value to help communities retain valued community assets such as pubs by providing an opportunity to bid for the property if the owner intends to sell. But the scheme is undermined by rules that allow pubs to be converted into supermarket convenience stores, and a wide range of other retail uses, without any need for a planning application.” Evidence collated by Camra earlier this year revealed that two pubs a week are converted into supermarket convenience stores, which led to the launch of its Pubs Matter campaign, asking the government to close the current loopholes and ensure planning permission is always required to convert a pub to other uses. Stainer said: “The fact pubs are the most listed community asset shows just how much people value their local pub. It is therefore hugely disappointing that the government won’t act to close planning loopholes which allow developers to convert pubs to other uses without the requirement for planning permission. Planning permission is required to convert a convenience store into a pub but no permission is required to convert a pub into a convenience store. The lack of protection for pubs is a glaring anomaly in the English planning system which needs to be corrected. It is surely not right that a supermarket convenience store is given greater planning protection than a valued community pub.”

Welsh health minister welcomes minimum pricing research: Setting a minimum alcohol price of 50p per unit could save Wales "nearly £900m over 20 years" by cutting crime and illness, a report has claimed. The sum works out at 28p per person per week. Researchers from Sheffield University, who made the claim, say a 50p unit price could reduce total alcohol consumption in Wales by 4% and could prevent more than 50 alcohol-related deaths a year, with poorer people allegedly seeing most health improvements. The Welsh health minister, Mark Drakeford, welcomed the report as the Welsh government plans a new law on the issue for 2015. Drakeford had unveiled the proposals for a minimum 50p unit price for alcohol in a public health white paper in April. He said the research published on Monday showed it would have "significant benefits" on the nation's health, and built on the advice of the Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse published in July. "It would mean fewer alcohol-related deaths and ease the burden of alcohol-related harm on the Welsh NHS," he said. "It is no coincidence that as alcohol has become relatively cheaper, alcohol-related deaths and disease have increased. We will consider these findings and continue to develop our proposals with a view to introducing legislation." It could become law as part of a Public Health Bill for Wales planned for early 2015.

McDonald’s to expand 'create your taste' bespoke burgers to 2,000 sites: McDonald's is to expand its "create your taste" bespoke burger trial to 2,000 sites in the United States. "Create your taste" lets customers skip the counter and head to tablet-like kiosks where they can customise everything about their burger, from the type of bun to the variety of cheese to toppings and sauces that can go on it. Until now the trial has been a tiny test in four Southern California stores. The trial is immediately expanding to 30 locations in five more states and in 2015 to 2,000 US locations, or about one in seven of the 14,000 McDonald's restaurants in its homeland. McDonald’s is also adding a second meat option, chicken, to the deal.

Company News:

Carluccio’s opens ninth site in Middle East: Carluccio’s has opened in Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi. the third Carluccio’s in the city and the ninth in the United Arab Emirates, with the other six branches in Dubai. The company’s tenth site, in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence, is scheduled to open later this month. The latest site was opened by founder Antonio Carluccio, who revealed he was working on his 21st cookbook. He said: “I have another book to write. It’s called The Glorification of Vegetables. It’s a cookbook about Italian vegetables. That should be released in 2016.”

Harvester, Chiquito, Frankie & Benny’s and Costa open in Welsh retail centre
: A total of 168 jobs will be created as four brands, Harvester, Chiquito, Frankie & Benny’s and Costa Coffee open at Talbot Green Shopping Park in Llantrisant, South Wales. The four tenants are opening in a unit formerly occupied by the now-defunct Comet electrical store, which closed in November 2012 after the UK-wide brand went into administration. The single Comet unit was split into four separate properties across 10,000 sq ft of space. The tenants’ arrival expands the total number of brands at Talbot Green Shopping Park to 21, and sees the out-of-town retail destination return to full capacity. Hannah Norburn of Savills, which manages the site, said: “It is expected that the additional tenants will have a significant positive impact on the local economy, not only through the creation of 168 new jobs, but via the extra wealth the new brands will bring to the area from customers looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of a city centre shopping experience.

UGOT plans four openings in 2015: UGOT, the grab-and-go brand selling healthy food at railway stations and headed by the 21-year-old entrepreneur Joe Carnall, is planning four new openings in the first half of 2015. The brand, which opened in York station in 2013 and Newcastle upon Tyne railway station this year, plans to expand into Leeds in January 2015, Harrogate two months later in March, Newcastle city centre in June and then down to London later in the year. Carnell has won two awards for the expansion of UGOT. The 14-month-old business was "Highly Commended" in the Newcomer of the Year category at the first ever Investec Food & Drink Awards, held in the House of Commons in London on 6 November. He went on to win Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the recent Press Business Awards, which took place at York Racecourse on 20 November. A spokesman for UGOT said: “We have spent the last year working with some of England's best organic suppliers and our team of chefs in our production kitchen based in Yorkshire to create a line of superb grab and go products including soups, salads, sandwiches, smoothies, nibbles, porridge, cold pressed juices and many other products.”
US drive-through brand opens second site in Wales site: A US-style drive-through restaurant, Harvey’s New York Bar & Grill restaurant, has opened in Rhuddlan, North Wales. The brand already runs a restaurant in Llandudno. The owners believe they have spotted a gap in the market for high quality drive-through food and hope this will prove a success in the Denbighshire town. Director Craig Holmes said the company had created 30 new jobs at the restaurant. He said: "We are providing 'upmarket' drive-through food, something different to what is already out there. We believe this is a concept that will work and look forward to welcoming people to Rhuddlan." Plans were submitted for the first restaurant/drive through operation earlier this year in Rhuddlan and planning permission secured at the former Marsh Warden pub, which had fallen into disrepair.
Mitchells & Butlers converts O’Neill’s site in Richmond to Nicholson’s brand: Mitchell & Butlers has converted an O’Neill’s in Richmond, Surrey to its Nicholson’s brand, with the pub bearing it original name, the Railway Hotel. It has been decorated with a selection of photography and artwork inspired by the local area, alongside vintage Underground posters and advertisements for the Richmond Royal Horse Show. There will be eight real ales available at all times, including Nicholson’s own Pale Ale brewed with St. Austell Brewery in 2012, and a number of guest ales on rotation throughout the year.
UK’s first paleo restaurant opens in Notting Hill: What is claimed to be the UK’s first "paleo" restaurant, Pure Taste, has opened in Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, West London. The menu focuses on food groups it is claimed were generally consumed during the Paleolithic era, before agriculture, which means dairy products, grains, legumes, processed oils or refined sugars are removed in favour of protein-rich and high-fibre options. The restaurant originally launched as a pop-up in Sussex, and head chef, Holly Redman, a nutritional therapist, has now brought it to London. Redman said: “The premise of Pure Taste is one that combines a passion for healthy living with high-quality dining and premium flavours. Our extensive menus are a testament of our commitment to providing exceptional food and exhibiting the benefits of paleo cooking.”
First Costa Coffee drive-through opens in Birmingham city centre: The first drive-through Costa Coffee in Birmingham city centre has opened in Edgbaston. The project in Calthorpe Road, close to Five Ways Island, has created around 18 jobs and is part of landowner Calthorpe Estates' aim to create an urban village. After a £1.1m development programme announced earlier this year, an existing 1,575 sq ft listed building has been refurbished and an extension added to create a 3,064 sq ft Costa Coffee with car park. Tim Abbotts, director of Calthorpe Estates, said: "The opening of the drive-through Costa Coffee is not only a first for Birmingham city centre, it also brings Calthorpe Estates one step closer to delivering on our strategic vision for The Village. Working closely with Birmingham City Council, Calthorpe Estates is developing proposals to transform this key area of Edgbaston. The arrival of Costa Coffee right at the entrance to The Village sends a clear statement of intent."
Top US analyst raises price target for Starbucks shares after investor day: The top American analyst Andy Barish, of Jefferies, maintained a "buy" rating on shares of Starbucks but with a price target raised to $97 from a previous $88. Barish said that Starbuck's five-year plan, which was introduced during the company's Analyst Day presentation last week, implies earnings per share will by the financial year 2019 by a factor of two. "Today Starbucks benefits from more flexible store formats, world-class operations and multiple same-store layers," Barish wrote in a note. "We do not expect significant upside to the model, but like the earnings per share visibility and think a normalised restaurant growth valuation could drive mid-teens total returns annually." Barish is "encouraged" by Starbucks' near-term like-for-like sale drivers, specifically food, which is expected to deliver around 2% like-for-like sales improvements. The analyst also said that Starbucks' Mobile Order and Pay programme could attract higher food traffic and yield more operational efficiency.

Cask ale specialists to re-open Huntingdon pub: Paul and Alyson Hepworth, who run the award-winning Olde England cask ale pub in Northampton, are to re-open the Falcon Tavern in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, which has been closed for six years. The Grade II-listed venue is to become a "traditional" real ale pub offering ciders, craft beers and fruit wines on top of real ale. "It will re-open before Christmas. The pub, which was placed on the “at risk" register by Huntingdonshire District Council in 2010, has had major refurbishment work to the exterior and interior ahead of the opening. The Save The Falcon Facebook group, which now has nearly 800 followers, was set up in 2011 to raise awareness of the campaign. The renovation of the pub, thought to be the oldest in Huntingdon, was carried out by the leaseholder, Spirit Pub Company, before the takeover. The Hepworths' award-winning pub in Northampton serves 25 real ales on tap and 20 real ciders. Although no mainstream lager or alcopops will be available at the Huntingdon pub, there will be a variety of games and music from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, with plenty of classic rock.

Fuller’s head brewer wins John Young Memorial Award: The head brewer at Fuller Smith & Turner, John Keeling, has received the prestigious John Young Memorial award from the London branch of the Campaign for Real Ale. The award was first presented in 2007 in memory of the former chairman of Young’s brewery and has recently been regularly presented by Torquil Sligo-Young, a Young’s executive director. The award aims to publicly acknowledge an individual or organisation, external to Camra which the London branches believe has done the most for real ale and/or pubs within the Greater London area. In nominating John Keeling for the award, the Richmond and Hounslow Camra branch said: “John Keeling has been involved in brewing great beer in London for 40 years. He has won many awards for his iconic brews, which include ESB, 1845, London Pride, and the terrific session beer Chiswick, while also producing a range of seasonal ales which keep people coming back to Fuller’s pubs time and again. Of particular note is John’s reintroduction and reinvention of old recipes such as those in the Fuller’s ‘Past Masters’ range. His championing of these beers and longer brewing times, in the face of other brewers simply brewing commodity beers in the shortest possible time, is highly commendable.”

Las Iguanas applies to open in Torquay: The Latin American restaurant and bar chain Las Iguanas has applied for a licence to open a restaurant on the ground floor of the Abbey Sands development in Torquay, Devon. Abbey Sands, which consists of 27 apartments on five upper levels, and four food and drink outlets on the ground floor, is already home to a Bistrot Pierre outlet, which opened in September. Mos Shamel, chief executive of Las Iguanas, said: "We’re thrilled to confirm that we will be opening in Abbey Sands in the spring and adding a Latin twist to what’s already on offer in Torquay’s new restaurant quarter. With Las Iguanas already a hit in Plymouth and Exeter, Torquay made perfect sense as our next opening in the South West. The new restaurant and bar will create 40 local jobs, and we'll be recruiting in the new year." Las Iguanas was founded in Bristol in 1991.
Razorlight singer's brother to re-open public toilets as bar this week: Entrepreneur William Borrell, brother of the singer and guitarist with the indie rock band Razorlight, John Borrell, will open a new bar, Ladies and Gentlemen, in abandoned public toilets in Kentish Town, North London this week. Borrell, who is also the founder of the high-grade spirit maker Vestal Vodka, will serve a cocktail named Nimby, as a response to neighbours who tried to stop him in an 18-month battle. He had to convince Camden Council to put the underground lavatories on the market before securing a 15-year lease in a bidding war. Residents’ groups campaigned to have the building, which had been out of use for more than a decade, re-opened as a public convenience. Borrell lives near to the lavatories in Fortress Road and walked past them every day before deciding they could make a memorable venue. He told the London Evening Standard: “They were just horrific. Pete Doherty wouldn’t go down there. But I just thought as a space it was great. When I went downstairs for the first time, I was struck by the four-metre-high ceiling, with its glass bricks that give an incredible amount of light. It has 1920s or 1930s-style scallop structural beams running through it and a green patterned marble mosaic on the floor. It really is incredible.” Borrell said of the operation: “Our fruit and veg will be locally sourced, my mum will be making the sausage rolls and scotch eggs, we will be employing seven people and we are signing up to a council scheme that means our toilets will be open to the public. We’ve put a lot of money into a derelict building that would otherwise have been left to decay.”

BrewDog venue to host beer and meat matching event: BrewDog, the Scottish brewer and bar owner, is to host beer and meat matching events at its venue in Clapham, South West London. The company said: “Beer schools have been popular events in all BrewDog bars since their inception; learning about the brewing process whilst enjoying a few hoppy delights is the ideal way to spend an evening, in our books, But we're stepping up this concept with a new facet, one that is decidedly meaty. From January 2015, BrewDog Clapham Junction will begin a series of six hosted 'beer and meat school' sessions with our awesome friends Meat School, based in Borough Market. Each session will be themed, so you can pick and choose which kind of beery, meaty morsels you fancy sampling, and they will run one per month January to June. Half will be hosted in BrewDog Clapham Junction and the others in Meat School's venue in Borough Market. Event themes range from wild meat to pork to smoked meat and beyond, so there is plenty to get your tastebuds acquainted with.”
Hogs Back Brewery pioneers new micro-brewing trend to grow your own: Hogs Back Brewery, near Farnham in Surrey, has planted a further 1,200 hop plants in its new hop garden, directly opposite the brewery. More than three thousand hop bines are now planted, including the historic Farnham White Bine hop, which was the foundation of Farnham’s former pre-eminence in hop growing in the 18th and 19th century, and used to command the highest prices in the UK, at one time as much as 30% more than its Kent neighbours. The new hop garden was created in the spring of this year by Rupert Thompson, the owner of the Hogs Back Brewery. It marks another phase in the successful expansion of the business, which has grown over 30% in the past year. Thompson  said: “The expansion of our hop garden is an important step towards our long-term vision of linking our brewing with local raw materials and traditional farming skills. It also gives us our own unique hop. The project has been led and managed by our brewers, so we are now farmers as well as brewers; and this gives us all a wholly new insight into this vital ingredient to great beer. We sold the first beers using our new home-grown hops, in October 2014, and results are very encouraging. The Farnham White Bine is very delicate and fresh tasting with a peppery aroma and good bittering character.” The planting of the new hop plants brings the total area under cultivation to 3.5 acres, underlining its position as the largest brewery hop garden in Britain.
Bill's seeks to take over former O'Brien's cafe at Gloucester Quays: The Bill’s Restaurants chain has submitted an application to Gloucester Council for a licence to serve alcohol at the former O'Brien's cafe at Gloucester Quays, across Orchard Street from TGI Friday's. If successful, the chain will be joining a host of other big brands at Gloucester Quays, including Nando's, Ed’s Easy Diner, Coal Grill & Bar and Zizzi. According to the Southwest Business website, the Peel Group, which owns Gloucester Quays, was unavailable for comment and Bill’s Restaurant did not want to say anything at this stage. Bill’s Restaurant, founded by entrepreneur Bill Collison in 2000, opened in nearby Cheltenham earlier this year, and passed 50 sites in November. It is now owned by the sector investor Richard Caring.

Restaurant puts reindeer on the menu and declares 'Christmas is cancelled': A Mongolian barbecue restaurant in Edinburgh has put reindeer on its menu and a sign on its fascia declaring: "Santa will not arrive this year … as we have Rudolph and his mates." Maciej Troscianko, owner of the Khublai Khan Mongolian Barbecue restaurant in Leith, Edinburgh, which has a sister outlet in Glasgow, dismissed claims that the advert would upset youngsters. He said: "I'm sure the children won't cry. Santa will find a way to deliver their presents, and the parents will be able to explain that it's just a big laugh." The restaurant's chef, David Wlodarczyk, said hundreds of his reindeer dumplings had been served at the restaurant since they appeared on last Saturday's menu. It also serves crocodile, kangaroo and zebra.

Meantime launches virtual beer app: The Greenwich-based craft brewer Meantime Brewing is giving consumers the chance to create their own personalised beers using a "virtual beer" app. As well as being able to select variations of the key ingredients of the beer, such as malts and hops, the app will take users on an educational journey, highlighting the importance Meantime places on the brewing process and quality of its products. The unique interactive app allows consumers to select the bottle shape and personalise the branding, while discovering interesting facts about different beers and steps in the brewing process. In 2015, Meantime will be launching a competition offering one drinker the chance to become even more involved, and create their virtual recipe at the brewery. This beer will then go on sale as a limited edition brew, allowing them to taste their creation for real. The new Meantime "virtual beer" app will be available to download for free on the Meantime Facebook page.
Ground Espresso opens first outlet in Dublin: The Northern Irish cafe chain Ground Espresso Bars has opened its first outlet in Dublin, as part of the clothing retailer Next’s store in the West End Retail Park in Blanchardstown. The chain, run by Karen Gardiner and her husband Darren, plans to open a further three cafes across Ireland by the end of 2015, to add to the 11 cafes and concessions it already runs in Northern Ireland, including two others with Next and one with Waterstones. Karen Gardiner said: "The next 12 months will be busy for us as we finalise negotiations on sites for our new stores and recruit new members to the Ground team." Ground Espresso was established in 2001 in Coleraine, and now employs more than 140 staff.
Eddie Rocket’s set to hit €54m turnover, eyes international expansion: Eddie Rocket’s the "better burger" brand with 35 managed and franchised sites in Ireland, is expecting to hit turnover of €54ms this year, and is eyeing international expansion. The brand, headed by Niall Fortune, will open four more outlets before Christmas, including two stores under a new concept Rocket's. Next year the business is planning international expansion. Its new Rocket's brand is described as half-way between the American restaurants Five Guys and Shake Shack. "Rocket's is for kiosks, universities, it's more portable. You'll probably wait five minutes for your food but it's fresh, it's fast-casual food," Fortune told local media. By 2018, the company is planning 100 Eddie Rocket's and Rocket's around Ireland and Europe. Of the 35 Eddie Rocket's, 25 are run by franchises and ten are operated directly. Eddie Rocket's said it was in advanced discussions with "major companies," for the expansion with the brand expected to appear in airports and at service stations in 2015.

Thwaites brews one-off ‘Foggy’ beer: The Blackburn-based brewer Daniel Thwaites has launched a new ale in honour of the town’s latest hero, Carl "Foggy" Fogarty, 49, who was crowned King of the Jungle in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here final on Sunday night (7 December). The 3.8% ABV ale, which has been christened Foggy’s Jungle Juice will be on tap in the Thwaites pub the Bay Horse Hotel, in nearby Osbaldeston, for a limited time to celebrate Fogarty's television glory. Andrew Buchanan, director of pub operations at Thwaites, said: “Everyone in Blackburn is very proud of Foggy and rightly so. His down-to-earth Lancastrian charm has proved a hit with the British public and we thought there was no better way to celebrate his win than by brewing up a beer in his honour – it’s certainly more refreshing than the deer’s blood he was forced to drink during that dreaded bushtucker trial!”
Plan to restore Dickens's local revealed: A pub in Strood, Kent where Charles Dickens would sit in the corner could be reopened with a restaurant and tearooms and B&B accommodation added. The Crispin and Crispianus in London Road, Strood closed in 2010, and was damaged by fire a year later. In 2012 it was bought at auction by Rabal Singh, who has now announced his plans for the property. Singh told the Kent Messenger newspaper: “I am hoping to keep the downstairs a pub and include restaurant and dining area and include a tearoom. The building is listed so we have to keep most of it as it is and I hope to keep the Dickens theme. I hope to build four bed-and-breakfast bedrooms upstairs and six in the annexe at the back of the pub, as well a garage and a storage area." Singh has put in a planning application with Medway Council for the extensions to the building, which is due to make a decision in January. Dickens would walk to the pub from his home nearby at Gad’s Hill.
Greene King chases Hungry Horse in Hinckley: Greene King has applied for licensing and planning permission for a Hungry Horse pub-restaurant to be built on the Sketchley Brook development in Hinckley, Leicestershire. The 120-acre Sketchley Brook scheme between the Ashby Canal and Hinckley railway station, which has been under construction since autumn 2012, will eventually include 350 homes, a retail and leisure centre, and 34 acres of industrial units providing 2,000 new jobs. Part of the project, includes an area for shopping and eating and drinking venues called The Fulcrum, and it is thought the Hungry Horse, which is planned for the junction of Brookfield Road and Rugby Road, could be part of this focal point.
Birmingham licensing chiefs block lap-dancing club plan after blind charity objection: Permission for a new lap-dancing club in the centre of Birmingham has been turned down by the city's licensing committee after objections from a charity for the blind based next door. Action for Blind People formally objected to the licence application for Lace Gentlemen's Club on John Bright Street. The licence application, from Jagdeep Bhader, who also runs the Angels Gentlemen’s in West Bromwich, was for premises which were used as a Spearmint Rhino lap dancing club until 2008, followed by an independent operation which closed several years ago. The council’s licensing committee heard that the street has moved upmarket in recent years and has changed from a purely nightlife area to a more mixed one with daytime restaurants and venues and more residential apartments. Cormac McCarthy, of the Action for Blind People charity, said: “The overall nature of the street has changed remarkably since the development of the station."

Punch reopens Northumberland pub after £300,000 makeover:
Punch Tavern has reopened the Falcon in Prudhoe, Northumberland after a five-week refurbishment, with staff numbers increased threefold from six to 18. The project was expected to cost around £283,000 but as the weeks went on it increased to just over £300,000. The funds were invested by licensee Mark Ruddock and Punch. Ruddock said: “The pub has a complete new look, and it looks absolutely beautiful. I’m over the moon with how it looks, both inside and out. From the new furniture to the new car park, we have really turned this place around.” Outside, decking areas have been replaced with patios, the car park completely re-surfaced and a new signage scheme installed around the site. Caroline Edwards, new business development manager at Punch Taverns, said: “Everyone at the Falcon is really pleased with the transformation. Mark and his team have some fantastic plans for the future and I look forward to working alongside them."

Warwickshire brewer produces £14.95 limited edition bottled beer: The Warwickshire brewer Purity has brought out a high-strength £14.95 limited edition celebration beer, sold in 75cl corked champagne-style bottles, for the Christmas period. The 6.5% beer, called Gnarly, was made with a Maris Otter, crystal rye, smoked and black malts, hopped with Northern Brewer, Cascade and Chinook and conditioned for six months in oak whisky casks. The phrase "gnarly" is used by mountain bikers, surfers and extreme sports fans to describe a dangerous but exhilarating ride. Paul Halsey, managing director of Purity, said: “Gnarly uses champagne yeast, which gives the beer a light and tight carbonation, and the oak whisky barrels provide an unmistakable and decadent twist. Gnarly is a tip of the hat to our friends on two wheels and for those who want to celebrate in style with a truly indulgent beer.” Only 1,000 bottles of the beer were made, and it is available from Purity’s brewery shop at Upper Spernall Farm, Great Alne and its online shop for a limited period only.

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