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Fri 11th Aug 2017 - Update: Outstanding business rate appeals top 20,000, Castle Rock, BrewDog, Domino's et al
More than 20,000 business rate appeals by hospitality sector still outstanding from 2010: The British Hospitality Association (BHA) and business rates specialist Altus have discovered there are 20,490 hospitality business rate appeals still outstanding from the 2010 Valuation List. The BHA said businesses are struggling to deal with increases in rates as a result of the revaluation of commercial properties earlier this year and have to navigate the Valuation Office’s online service, which is not “fit for purpose”. Yesterday (Thursday, 10 August) it was also reported that only about £197,000 of the government’s £300m business rates relief fund had been allocated. BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said: “The findings from our Freedom of Information request paints a chaotic picture. We now know the full extent of the crisis facing the hospitality industry with 20,490 hospitality businesses waiting on appeals from complaints they lodged in 2010. This is further compounded by the lack of clarity concerning the new appeals process. It is increasingly clear that through no fault of its own the Valuation Office is underfunded and thus overrun. The government needs to act now before it is too late.” Altus UK vice-president David Shuttleworth added: “We are acutely aware this is a particularly challenging climate for many operators to stay profitable, and we have sympathy with the frustrations that many businesses in the hospitality sector face when addressing their rates rises. The recently published Valuation Office Business Plan commits the agency to settling all 2010 Rating List appeals by 31 March 2019 so businesses may have nearly two more years for their retrospective appeals to be concluded. This is at the same time that increases in rates as a consequence of the 2017 rating revaluation are impacting on SMEs in particular.” The BHA said the average increase in rateable values on hotels for the 2017 revaluation is about 23%. Restaurants and pubs face massive increases too, notwithstanding the £1,000-a-year rebate given to pubs that works out at just £20 a week. The BHA said business rates would be a key issue at the BHA’s annual Lobby Day in parliament on 10 October. Last year’s event was attended by more than 150 business owners and 65 MPs.

Castle Rock Brewery reports turnover boost despite ‘patchy’ pub sales: Tynemill, the Nottingham-based brewer and pub operator that trades as Castle Rock Brewery, has reported a turnover boost despite “patchy” sales at its pubs. The company saw turnover increase 0.9% to £9,570,631 for the year ending 31 March 2017, compared with £9,480,610 the previous year. Pre-tax profit fell to £55,570 compared with £319,722 the year before, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Managing director Colin Wilde said: “Since year-end, the company has launched some exciting craft beers that are very relevant to new demand patterns and we expect these to gain further distribution. Turnover in pubs was patchy during the year with some pubs excelling and bounding forwards but others found trading tough as the market continually reinvents itself. The lack of an England test match at Trent Bridge in 2016 also made for difficult like-for-likes, and international football tournaments such as Euro 2016 never have a positive impact as normal trade is temporarily disrupted. Food trade is becoming noticeably more competitive with more casual dining concepts in Nottingham than ever before and some sites have found it difficult to respond. However, others have made great progress in this field. The year saw continued investment and many one-off costs that could not be capitalised have added to expenses and subsequently reduced operating profit before interest and tax to £275,386. Examples include the revaluation costs of the company’s property, which was routinely required by Santander. This presented the opportunity to restructure the company’s debt, which is now fixed at a favourable rate into the long term, albeit with a sizeable one-off arrangement fee. Other one-off costs included significant investment in IT. Without these and a handful of other exceptional costs, the company would have more or less matched last year’s operating profit. More debt was repaid and along with an increased level of dividends the company also managed to increase the value of shareholders’ funds by 5.4% during the year. At the time of reporting the company has traded exceptionally well into the new financial year – a year that marks the company’s 40th anniversary. I am heartened the company is so well placed to build a great set of results into year-end 2018.”

Wagamama and Byron non-executive director denies being jogger who pushed woman into path of bus: A non-executive director of Wagamama and better burger brand Byron has denied being the jogger who was caught on CCTV pushing a woman into the path of an oncoming bus in south west London. Eric Bellquist, who is a partner at private equity firm Hutton Collins, which owns the two restaurant companies, was arrested on Thursday (10 August) on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm and later released on bail. However, Bellquist has denied he was the jogger who shoved a woman into the road on Putney Bridge – with his lawyers stating he has “irrefutable proof” he was in the US at the time of the incident, reports the Guardian. In a statement on behalf of Bellquist his lawyers, Duncan Lewis solicitors, said: “Our client has been wrongly implicated in this matter. He categorically denies being the individual concerned and has irrefutable proof he was in the United States at the time of the incident. Consequently, we expect a swift resolution to this wholly untrue allegation.” According to his LinkedIn profile, Bellquist studied business administration at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He became a partner at Hutton Collins in 2002. CCTV footage showed a man apparently barging into the 33-year-old woman, knocking her into the road on the east side of Putney Bridge and forcing a bus to swerve to avoid her.

BrewDog attracts almost 10,000 entries for first Beer Geek Awards: Scottish brewer and retailer BrewDog has had nearly 10,000 entries for its first Beer Geek Awards. The awards feature seven categories that acknowledge exceptional individuals across Europe’s craft beer scene. An awards ceremony will be held on Monday, 21 August at BrewDog Clerkenwell in London, where a panel of beer experts, including BrewDog co-founder James Watt and presenter and author Pete Brown, will select the winners. Prizes include a break to the Stockholm Beer and Whisky festival, and a holiday in San Diego. BrewDog stated: “The entries are in, blogs have been read, quiz scores have been tallied and now it’s time to get ready for the newest highlight of the beer events calendar – the BrewDog Beer Geek Awards! We have an amazing panel of judges who have helped shortlist our rather impressive 9,851 entries down to the final few from each category. As well as announcing the winners of each of the Beer Geek Awards categories, we’ll host a tasting event to find out who has Europe’s finest palate from the top eight entrants from our Beer Tasting Geek event. We’ll also find out who is the ultimate Beer Geek Scholar in a killer game show-style beer quiz for the five highest scorers in our online quiz.”

Douglas Jack – Domino’s Pizza deal with largest franchisee in London is accretive acquisition: Peel Hunt leisure analyst Douglas Jack has said the deal Domino’s Pizza has made with its largest franchisee in London is an “accretive acquisition”. Issuing a ‘Buy’ note on the shares with a target price of 400p, Jack said: “We estimate Domino’s is paying the same price (65 times weekly sales) franchisees usually pay for internal store transfers. We also estimate it equates to 8.5 times EV/Ebitda. In comparison, we expect the interest cost (at 2% coupon) on the new debt to be less than £1m, hence we expect the acquisition to be £2m accretive from next year, in addition to bringing a key strategic benefit. Historically, Domino’s franchisees have not expanded as quickly in London as they have elsewhere. This acquisition involves a selective group of central London sites with high address counts that are ripe for store splits. Domino’s intends to exploit this opportunity by accelerating expansion in London. The transaction is expected to complete in September. We believe five of the key drivers influencing changes in like-for-like sales are comparatives (11.3% in first half; 4.3% in second half); innovation (Apple Pay now live, GPS roll-out from September); rainfall (down 29% in second half of 2016, down 22% in first half); competition; and consumer confidence (value deals/advertising are now to the fore). Competition should remain intense. For the other factors, the backdrop is unlikely to be more adverse in the second half than in the first half, in our view.”

BBPA’s packaging partnership delivers £250,000 savings for members: The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has said its Sustain Drinks Packaging Partnership delivered £251,000 in savings to members in 2016, its second full year of operations, adding to £279,000 saved in 2015. The not-for-profit scheme was launched to counter the impact of packaging waste recycling notes on industry costs. The BBPA said the scheme had increased transparency and promoted recycling across the sector. Savings per company amounted to 11% to 16% depending on procurement strategy and packaging materials used. The BBPA said it expected Sustain to deliver a similar level of savings for its members in 2017. Sustain also passed an Environment Agency audit with all processes, systems and functionality approved. In total, 23 members have signed up to the scheme, which is not restricted solely to BBPA members. BBPA policy director Andy Tighe said: “We would encourage more companies to join the scheme and it is open to the wider drinks and hospitality industry. It is a great example of how trade associations can deliver real savings to members, and there is also clear evidence our scheme has driven down prices, even for non-Sustain members, who benefit from more competitive prices from alternative sources.”

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