Leelex to open ‘gin hotel’ in Portobello Road next month: Restaurant and bar company Leelex, co-founded by Ged Feltham, will open “gin hotel” The Distillery in Portobello Road next month. The 5,970 square foot venue is set to open on Friday, 16 December at a former pub and will consist of four separate elements split over four floors. The 1,309 square foot basement will house modern visitor centre The Ginstitute, where guests will be able to learn about the history of gin and try their hand at blending their own. The brand’s own Portobello Road Gin will also be produced on-site using a 400-litre still. The 1,713 square foot ground floor will house a pub called The Resting Room, with spirits stored in barrels above the bar, while the first floor will be home to new restaurant concept GinTonica, a Basque-inspired tapas restaurant. On the top floor there will be a private dining room called The Boardroom, with a VIP bar and choice of three boutique rooms – each fitted with mini-bars and record players. Feltham told the Evening Standard: “Not only does the new distillery mean we can continue to produce our product in Portobello Road, it has allowed us to expand our hugely successful gin-making experience, The Ginstitute, which had outgrown it’s original venue. We are proud purveyors of London spirit and look forward to exciting guests from around the globe with amazing gin and other wonderful new distillates and aged spirits.”




Living Ventures partners with DisabledGo in bid to improve experience for customers with disabilities: Living Ventures has partnered with DisabledGo as it bids to improve the experience for its customers with disabilities. DisabledGo will shortly audit all Living Ventures sites and produce an online register allowing people with mobility issues or other disabilities to assess whether its restaurants and bars would be suitable for them to visit. The guide will provide extensive information about accessing the restaurant, including ramps and slopes, width of doorways, height of counters, and even type of flooring. Living Ventures director of training and compliance Dave Mansbridge told Propel: “This will give people living with any kind of disability the independence to be able to make an informed choice and save them from becoming embarrassed when visiting one of our restaurants due to access issues or any other Disability Discrimination Act problem they come up against. I believe this to be a service to our guests and a big step to bridging the gap to make disabled people feel included in mainstream public buildings. I want to inspire other restaurant operators to do this. It’s not particularly expensive but it will make the lives of many people better.”




St Austell Brewery named south west business of the year: Cornwall-based St Austell Brewery has been named south west business of the year at the Western Morning News Business Awards following a successful 12 months that has seen an increase in sales to 1.18 million barrels and turnover up £12m during the past 12 months. The judging panel praised the brewer for its “innovation, quality assurance, and investment in its people”. St Austell acquired fellow West Country brewer and pub company Bath Ales in the summer, while the success of its new Small Batch Brewery was highlighted as an area where the company has successfully expanded, bringing new products to new markets and audiences. St Austell Brewery chief executive James Staughton said: “The award is for the whole company and, without the support of everyone involved in our constantly expanding and complex operations, we wouldn’t be the success we are today.” Jeremy Mitchell, marketing and communications director, added: “We are glad to be contributors to the strong and vibrant business community that surrounds us in the West Country.”




New owner for £80m-turnover drinks wholesaler: A West Yorkshire wholesale supplier of alcohol and soft drinks to the on-trade sector that turns over £80m has been snapped up by an acquisitive counterpart headquartered in North Tyneside. Wakefield-based H B Clark, one of the UK’s largest independent alcohol wholesalers, has been bought by Kitwave, which has embarked on an acquisition drive following a refinance in March. Kitwave raised funds from lead investor Pricoa Capital Group and co-investment partner Allstate for a minority stake. Operating across the north of England from 11 depots, H B Clark also produces its own-brand craft ales. The H B Clark deal is the second acquisition since the refinancing deal and will expand Kitwave’s offering and customer base across the wider north region. Kitwave director David Brind told Insider Media: “Clark has a proud history of providing a quality delivered solution to its customers and this ethos is a key part of the Kitwave Group. H B Clark will continue to run as an independent business and we look forward to building the business further with its loyal employees, customers and strong supplier relationships.” Kitwave, founded by chief executive Paul Young in 1988, has transformed itself from a regional confectionery-based business to a diversified, national wholesaler through a number of acquisitions since 2011. The acquisition was supported by new finance facilities made available by Barclays and Yorkshire Bank.




Taco Bell opens Southampton city centre restaurant, 13th UK site: Mexican restaurant brand Taco Bell has opened its 13th UK site, this time in Southampton city centre. The 67-cover restaurant has opened across two floors in the Hanover Buildings at a site formerly occupied by Dolphin Bathrooms. The venue is just around the corner from Hammerson’s £85m WestQuay Watermark dining and leisure development, which is due to open next month. Operators will include better burger brand Byron, Bill’s Restaurants, Thai Leisure Group brand Thaikhun, Casa Brasil, Fulham Shore-owned The Real Greek and Franco Manca, TGI Friday’s, Nando’s, Jamie’s Italian, and Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi, among others. Earlier this month, Taco Bell opened its first merchandise store within its new site in Las Vegas. Products include hats, shirts, bags, bikinis, rings and sweatshirts. The restaurant has also debuted a new logo, which the company calls an “evolution, not revolution” of the brand and marks the latest development of Taco Bell’s plan to become a $15bn brand by 2022.




Redcomb ramps up expansion by acquiring Potters Bar pub with rooms, 16th site: Redcomb Pubs, led by Dan Shotton and Mark Draper, has added a 16th site to its growing portfolio of pubs and pubs with rooms following the acquisition of The Old Manor in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. The pub features a 170-cover dining room with vaulted ceilings and access to a galleried dining area, expansive bar, and private function area for hire. The Old Manor is also renowned for its range of real ales and is a popular pit stop for commuters and theatre-goers. The 13th century venue is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the town. Last month, Redcomb acquired The Old Shades in Whitehall. Shotton said: “Our continued expansion strategy has seen two new acquisitions in as many months, adding strength to both our London and home county representation in the UK pub sector. Well-established, quality sites such as The Old Manor come along infrequently and we are delighted to be bringing this well-loved site into the Redcomb fold. We look forward to working with the current team at the pub, meeting the locals and providing them with the top-notch food, drink and hospitality Redcomb Pubs is renowned for.” The company is set to launch its new casual dining venture – Lockhouse – next month at the heart of the Paddington Basin redevelopment in London.




Bonnie Gull to open second seafood shack, in Soho next month: British seaside restaurant concept Bonnie Gull is set to open its second “seafood shack”, this time in Soho. The company, which opened its flagship site in Fitzrovia five years ago, will open the new venue in Bateman Street on Monday, 12 December offering daily-fresh British fish and shellfish. The 23-cover restaurant will maintain the principles of its big sister to offer fresh, sustainable seafood in a “buzzy and interactive environment”, with a focus on small plates made for sharing. Bonnie Gull executive chef Christian Edwardson has created a hyper-seasonal menu that will change daily based on the catch delivered. The wine list will also change regularly and look to champion small producers, while there will be a small selection of cocktails, including the signature Bonnie Mary topped with a fresh oyster. The main buzz of activity will be at the bar, allowing diners perched on stools to observe the open kitchen. Food will be served directly from the charcoal grill across the counter, with diners having the opportunity to request off-the-menu dishes. There will be a no-reservations policy, with anyone waiting for a seat given a discount card for nearby bars and cafes. They will then be texted when their seat is available. A snug seating area for up to 11 people at the back of the restaurant will be available for hire. Alex Hunter and Danny Clancy opened the first Bonnie Gull seafood shack in Fitzrovia after running a pop-up in Hackney. Their site in Exmouth Market closed earlier this year.




Revolution Bars eyes Belfast city centre site for £2.5m Revolución de Cuba, first Northern Ireland site: Revolution Bars Group is negotiating to open a first site in Northern Ireland under its Revolución de Cuba brand, the Belfast Telegraph reports. Café Vaudeville in Arthur Street in Belfast city centre was put on the market in June for £3.5m. The newspaper reports that owner Pat McCormack is currently in advanced talks with Revolution Bars Group to purchase the location for about £2.5m. A Revolution Bars Group spokesman said the company had no comment to make but added: “Revolution is keen to open and get into the Northern Irish market.” An advertisement for a general manager of a Revolución de Cuba in Northern Ireland was recently placed on a hospitality industry website. Last week, the company opened its first Revolución de Cuba site in Scotland, and 11th in total across the UK.




Shake Shack to open Leicester Square site next month: Shake Shack will open its flagship site in Leicester Square on Thursday, 8 December. Every Shake Shake’s design is distinct and the Leicester Square Shack will have several unique features. Signage, inspired by the neighbouring theatres, will illuminate the square and the venue’s interior. Seating will include black oak benches and Uhuru chairs framed in the Shack’s signature green and grey – all tucked under dark-wood tabletops. Reclaimed pine and oak panels, together with geometric tiling, will line the walls, offset by planters and clusters of hanging globes. Shake Shack chief executive Randy Garutti said: “We’re thrilled to bring Shake Shack to the bustling, iconic centre of Leicester Square, where Londoners and guests from around the world come to gather. Since we opened our first Shack in Covent Garden three years ago, we’ve been amazed at the response, and we’re looking forward to bringing Shake Shack closer to more London neighbourhoods next year with Victoria Nova and Canary Wharf.”




Former Whitbread and Gary Rhodes employee acquires Hampshire pub: Experienced operator Chris Cooper, who has previously worked for Whitbread and Gary Rhodes, has acquired The Village Inn in Buriton, near Petersfield, Hampshire. Cooper bought the recently refurbished pub, which is on the corner of Petersfield Road and High Street, in a deal brokered by agent Christie & Co. Having been closed for a while, the venue, which has 17 letting rooms and a bar/restaurant area with capacity for 60 people, is due to reopen in the coming weeks. Cooper said: “After a long career in the hospitality industry having worked my way up the ranks with Whitbread, Gary Rhodes and Forte Hotels, I am looking forward to taking the reins at The Village Inn and developing a wonderful venue for the local community and visitors to the area to enjoy. My vision is to reopen the business as soon as possible and for it to become known for its great food, drinks, accommodation quality and service. With chef patron Heinrich Boreniok at the helm, our ideas for food is to develop a ‘grill-house’ style of menu, featuring top-notch dry-aged steaks, free-range poultry, prime orchard-fed pork and more. Along with some well-chosen cask ales, interesting wines and a ‘gin cellar’, we want to support local farmers, growers and suppliers, and create something outstanding.”




Brunning & Price opens £2.4m site in Birmingham: Brunning & Price, the gastro-pub brand owned by The Restaurant Group, has opened a site in Birmingham. The company has invested £2.4m in The Physician, which is housed in the former Birmingham Medical Institute in Edgbaston. It features a bar and restaurant with 192 covers. There are also two dining rooms seating 16 in each, plus a new courtyard garden and orangery. The menu includes mains such as slow-cooked, ex-cheek bourguignon with horseradish and roast carrots, while light bites feature devilled sea bass fillet with cucumber mint, and pink grapefruit salad with saffron mayonnaise. The bar has a variety of real ales, ciders and wines. Operations manager Helen Strason told the Birmingham Mail: “We’ve made the most of the features of this beautiful building and kept true to its history. It is quite traditional but with hopefully a contemporary twist. We hope The Physician will be a place where people can meet, eat, drink and talk in a relaxing, inviting atmosphere.” The Restaurant Group bought Brunning & Price, which has 55 sites split mainly between the north west and south east, for £32m in 2007. Earlier this month, the company reported turnover increased 12.7% to £54,576,000 for the year ending 27 December 2015, compared with £48,408,000 the previous year. Ebitda grew 14% to £8.2m from £7.2m in 2014, while pre-tax profit was up to £6,110,000 compared with £5,375,000 the previous year.




ETM Group to launch Aviary on 1 December: ETM Group is to launch Aviary, its first aerial restaurant and bar, with a 50% off food soft launch offer from Thursday, 1 December. The venue is perched on the 10th floor of the new Montcalm Royal London House Hotel in Finsbury Square. The 6,000 square foot rooftop dining destination has been designed by Russell Sage. Aviary is ETM’s second venue to open in the Montcalm Royal London House Hotel, with cafe, bar and restaurant Burdock on the ground floor, which opened last month. Burdock offers an approachable, casual menu of small plates and sharing dishes, again using the best of British seasonal produce.




Chestnut Group opens The Northgate in Bury St Edmunds: Suffolk-based hospitality company Chestnut Group has opened its site in Bury St Edmunds. The company has launched The Northgate following an extensive renovation of Ounce House, a Victorian property. As well as a bar, dining area, heated terrace, private dining room and meeting room facilities, The Northgate features a chef’s table, allowing diners to see their meal being prepared from start to plate. There are also ten bedrooms. The menu changes daily, showcasing the best regional produce. Guests can enjoy breakfast, brunch and lunch while, in the evening, dishes with modern European flavours are served. There is also an extensive drinks menu. Chestnut Group founder and chief executive Philip Turner said: “It’s been a tremendous effort from the whole team to bring our vision for The Northgate to life. Bury St Edmunds is thriving and we hope The Northgate will become the heartbeat of this growing community.” The company’s other sites are The Packhorse Inn in Moulton; The Rupert Brooke in Grantchester; The White Horse in Easton, near Woodbridge; and the Three Blackbirds in the village of Woodditton. Earlier this year, Chestnut Group raised £2.5m under the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme, with plans to expand to ten sites by the end of 2018.




Dockgate buys Southampton leasehold pub site: Dockgate Pub Company has bought the lease of the Quayside pub restaurant in Southampton through agent Christie & Co. The property is near Southampton Water and the docks. Having been closed for seven years, an extensive refurbishment programme was undertaken and the pub has now reopened. Richard Wood, of Christie & Co’s Winchester office, said: “I am delighted to have breathed new life into the business, which has been closed for such a long period of time. I have no doubt Dockgate Pub Company, with its passion and expertise, will make a great success of Quayside and put it firmly back on the Southampton map. It is certainly set to attract a wide customer base with its five open-plan trading areas. Pubs are all too often snapped up by developers to be converted into housing or other uses. However, it’s fantastic to help keep the pub sector in Southampton alive and thriving.”




Analyst – Marston’s is outperforming on like-for-likes and margin: Analyst Tim Barrett, of Numis, has argued that Marston’s is outperforming industry peers in terms of like-for-like sales growth and margin. Issuing a buy recommendation and a target price of 165p for the shares, he said: “Underlying growth of 7% reflects solid like-for-like sales increases in both the Destination and Premium and wet-led taverns, allowing the group to successfully offset headwinds such as the National Living Wage (margins flat). The company continues to de-gear gradually and fixed charge cover has increased to 2.6x. Current trading is in line with expectations and our forecasts are largely unchanged. The Destination and Premium division saw like-for-like sales growth of 2.3%, opened 22 sites (+6%) and held margins flat year-on-year. Marston’s has outperformed a broadly flat market, demonstrating the quality of its relatively young estate. The margin performance is materially better than its managed pub peers (MAB -20bp, JDW -60bp). Together these factors drove 8% Ebit growth. Marston’s acknowledges the cost pressures impacting the whole industry but has lower exposure on business rates (immaterial London exposure) and has fixed a majority of food and beverage costs for 2017. Despite operating in a sub-sector with several headwinds, we believe Marston’s is differentiated by its new openings programme, growth in brewing, and below-average exposure to business rates.”




Cairn Group unveils four-star hotel plan for Sunderland city centre: Newcastle-based hotel and bar operator Cairn Group is continuing its rapid expansion with an application to build a multimillion-pound, 120-bedroom hotel in Sunderland city centre. The company, which owns and operates 31 hotels and 30-plus bars and restaurants across the UK, is working with Sunderland City Council to spearhead plans for a landmark hotel in Keel Square as part of the city centre’s regeneration. If the plans are approved, the hotel will also include ground-floor commercial units with opportunities for food and drink outlets. Cairn Group has led several hotel regeneration projects in the region, including Holiday Inn Jesmond, Holiday Inn Scotch Corner, Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel, Cairn Hotel Newcastle, Rooms Inn Newcastle and DoubleTree by Hilton Newcastle International Airport. The planning application also comes a week after the company added Redworth Hall Hotel in Durham and four others to its portfolio as part of a multiple acquisition against a list price of £75m. Cairn Group finance director Richard Warren told Chronicle Live: “We are working closely with Sunderland City Council and support its vision for the improvement of the city centre. The submission of planning permission for this landmark hotel is a very important milestone for this project. With a focus on pulling visitors to the centre of the city, the hotel will provide retail space opportunities for local businesses as well as bringing many job prospects. We are committed to investing in the region and are excited about the potential of this ambitious project.”




James Sommerin’s business partner to launch bakery next to Michelin-starred Penarth restaurant: The business partner of James Sommerin is set to open a bakery next door to the chef’s Michelin-starred restaurant in Penarth, near Cardiff. Richard Hayward, director of Richard Hayward Properties, which owns the Beachcliff buildings that house the venues, plans to open the “best bakery in the UK”. The new venue will feature a cafe and is scheduled to open in February. Hayward told the Penarth Times: “We’re going to make this a success, just like we did at James Sommerin restaurant. Our ultimate aim is for it to be the best in the UK and believe we can do this. We got there with James Sommerin through sheer hard work.” In March, Sommerin and Hayward launched five-star boutique B&B rooms above his restaurant. Restaurant James Sommerin With Rooms offers nine luxury rooms, some overlooking the Severn Estuary. The rooms have been given a five-star rating by the AA and Visit Wales following the numerous accolades won by Restaurant James Sommerin, including three AA rosettes and being the highest-ranked restaurant in Wales in the Good Food Guide 2016.




West Kent-based operator to take on second pub: West Kent-based operator Nick Naismith is set to take on his second pub. Nailsmith, who runs the Wheatsheaf in Bough Beech, is in the final stages of negotiation over acquiring the lease of the Castle Inn in nearby Chiddingstone. The 15th century pub in the heart of the National Trust-owned village is expected to reopen in the new year following its closure in April. Naismith told Kent Live: “The Castle Inn will be opening as a traditional pub serving great local ales and very good food.” A National Trust spokesman confirmed it was in the finishing stages of drawing up a contract with new tenants. The inn dates to 1420 but first served drinks in 1730. The neighbouring Chiddingstone shop was once owned by the father of Tudor queen Anne Boleyn.




Bradford-based entrepreneur bids to turn city centre pub into boutique hotel: Bradford-based entrepreneur Ross Biscoe has submitted an application to turn the Old Crown pub in the town centre into a boutique hotel with roof terrace. Biscoe has submitted plans to convert the Ivegate pub, which has been empty for many years, into an 11-bedroom hotel, pub and restaurant known as Ivegate House. The application states that the new hotel would add to the city’s “growing independent bar and cafe scene”, reports the Telegraph & Argus. The application also includes turning Bradford Brewery’s Made of Bradford pop-up bar into a permanent pub linked to the ground floor of the Old Crown, which would become a restaurant. A decision on the application is expected early in the new year.




Sam’s Kitchen starts expansion with Frome opening: Bath-based restaurateur Sam Wylde, who owns Sam’s Kitchen in the city, has started expansion of his concept by opening a second venue, this time in Frome, Somerset. The new site features a restaurant and bakery on the ground floor and a New York-style wine bar upstairs. The restaurant has an open kitchen, a wood-burning stove, and banquette seating. It offers “rustic food sourced from local farms” and also sells bread baked on-site. Wylde told Somerset Live: “We’ll be using our wood-burning oven regularly. You can roast an entire animal inside and, of course, it can also be used to cook pizzas. The menu will change daily and we’ll be trying to replicate a similar format to that in Bath – a comfortable environment for people to come in and graze and use our superfast Wi-Fi without the need to spend too much.”