ETM Group co-founder Ed Martin – we’ve made conscious decision to open larger venues: ETM Group co-founder Ed Martin has told Propel the company has made a “conscious decision to open larger venues” to reflect the burgeoning London market. ETM Group’s last three openings have been large, high-profile businesses in new London developments. Two are at the Royal London House hotel in Finsbury Square. Burdock is a 2,000 square foot bar with 100 covers, while Aviary is a 6,000 square foot rooftop restaurant and bar with a 2,000 square foot terrace offering spectacular views of the City skyline. A third site, Greenwood, is part of a £2bn residential and leisure development that will fully open later this year. At 11,000 square feet, the pub and restaurant is ETM’s biggest site to date. Martin told Propel: “We’ve made a conscious decision to open larger and more wet-led venues. That means there aren’t that many venues of the size we want available but equally there aren’t that many competitor operators who can do this size. So while our opportunities are limited, for that very reason the competition isn’t as fierce as it is in other sectors of the London market. We’ll look at anything but new developments are great because we start from fresh. There are developments everywhere in London so there will always be opportunities. You just need to be in the right place and take them when they come. Some of our businesses are 80/20 food and some are 50/50, with a range in between. I’m happy with that because we are opportunity-led, given the property market, and it means we can open anywhere.” ETM Group has just put its One Canada Square site in Canary Wharf on the market. It also sold the freehold of The Gun in Docklands to Fuller’s last year. Martin said: “The Gun was very dear to our hearts but, in terms of future growth of the company, it made sense to dispose of it – and we got a great price. It released funds and has enabled other opportunities to be realised that are more central to our ambitions.”

Epic Pubs targets 15 pubs by 2019 as it changes name of management segment: Epic Pubs, which has changed the name of its Epic Managers segment to Unique Hospitality Management (UHM), has told Propel it hopes to be operating 15 pubs by 2019 as it targets sites, including developments, in market towns and villages in its core area. Managing director Andrew Coath said UHM would offer management support in addition to actively continuing to seek new sites to expand its portfolio. He told Propel: “We’re looking to open another three pubs during 2017, we’re actively looking at opportunities for the later part of the year, and we hope to be at 15 pubs by 2019. We’re looking in other market towns at the moment. I think market towns and villages are our areas. Our plan is that Bedford is the epicentre and we fill in. Our reputation with customers makes that much easier than going into a new area from scratch. We want more pubs in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. Realistically, there are a limited number of opportunities with the pubcos for the type of site we want so we’re also looking at developments. For example, a lot of banks are going to close in the next 12 months as more banking goes online.” He added: “Along with continuing to seek out new pubs ourselves, we are able to assist any companies that have a group of pubs they feel would benefit from our central management experience. We feel our new name better reflects what we are able to offer to both the pubs we take on and to the industry overall.” Alongside Coath, the Unique Hospitality Management team includes group operations director Jonathan Taylor, chef director Mark Austin, and central services director Wendy Twiddy. Directors include Stephen Thomas, who was Luminar chief executive for 22 years. The company has also appointed Sean McGuirk as operations manager. Unique Hospitality Management currently operates five pubs – two freehold sites in the company’s Epic Pubs division and three leaseholds in its Heroic Pubs division.

Zizzi lines up second Dublin site: Azzurri Group-owned Zizzi is to open its second location in Dublin, replacing Pizza Hut in Suffolk Street. The chain, which was founded in 1999, has more than 140 restaurants across the UK and Ireland, and opened its first Dublin restaurant in Dundrum town centre last April. The company will pay a rent of €200,000 for 167 square metres on the ground floor and an additional 74 square metres at basement level, reports The Irish Times. Advising Zizzi’s Irish management was Emma Coffey of Lisney who said her client was “absolutely delighted” to secure premises so close to Grafton Street and Dublin’s “creative centre”, adding that if Suffolk Street is to be pedestrianised it will help improve business even further.

Lancaster-based Borough Brewery adds third site: Lancaster-based Borough Brewery, owned by Hannah and Martin Horner plus business partner Rory Walker, has added a third site. They already operate The Borough on Dalton Square and the attached Borough Brewery. They also acquired The Lodge at Slyne-with-Hest on the outskirts of the city in 2015. The partners have now acquired the Britannia Hotel in Ullswater Road in Lancaster, with Walker. Martin Horner said: “The Britannia is in a great location and we knew we could make a success of the venue, continuing our tradition of offering a big selection of craft ales and quality food. It is already trading well above expectations and we look forward to welcoming customers new and old.”

Bar and smokehouse plan for Greene King Pub Partners site in Newcastle city centre: A subterranean bar and smokehouse, Purple Bear, is set to open at a Greene King Pub Partners site in Newcastle city centre, creating 20 jobs as part of investment plans. The concept was originally planned to open in the former Bar Fleet venue in Pudding Chare, but the plans fell through at the last minute, sending the firm’s directors in search of a new home for their bar and restaurant. The search came to an end when they heard how Greene King was on the look out for entrepreneurs to take over the running of its site in Prudhoe Chare, just off Northumberland Street, which currently trades as The Northumberland Arms. Last July, Greene King put out a call for bar operators after initially hatching plans for an underground prohibition-era style bar. However, the plans were shelved when Greene King opted instead to back Purple Bear’s pledge to create a stylish American grill venue, bringing the best of the American South to the north east. And having spent almost two years working towards a Newcastle opening, the Purple Bear directors are hopeful they can put their plans into action swiftly, and open in March. The venue will specialise in St Louis-style grilled food and offer 18 taps of keg and cask.

JD Wetherspoon operations director Martin Geoghegan’s spouse sells shares: The spouse of JD Wetherspoon operations director Martin Geoghegan, Helena Geoghegan, sold £47,284.42-worth of shares in the pub company last week. Helena Geoghegan unloaded 4,927 shares at an individual price of 959.71p just above the shares’ 52-week closing high of 952p. On the same day as her sale, analysts at Barclays lifted their target price on the shares from 1,000p to 1,050p, while reiterating their ‘Overweight’ stance, labelling Wetherspoon as their preferred company in the sector on the basis of its cash flow. They said: “We turn our attention back to free cash flow and capital allocation as the key metrics for our sector preferences, as investor concerns over debt risks subside. JD Wetherspoon is our favoured pub company.” Following that transaction the combined shareholding of the Geoghegans was 21,716 ordinary shares. Roughly a fortnight before, the pub operator said its sales slowed and profit margins narrowed during the second quarter, but while the pub group remained cautious its expectations for its full-year results had “slightly improved”.

Queensway to launch new budget hotel brand: Family-owned property business Queensway Group is to launch a new budget hotel brand, Point A Hotels. The brand will comprise of seven hotels – expected to open over the next ten weeks – all owned by Raag Hotels, a joint venture between affiliates of the Queensway Group, the Wellcome Trust and Fifty Seven 7, a company owned by Naguib Kheraj. The first openings will be in Glasgow and Shoreditch in March. The London Shoreditch hotel is a new-build featuring 181 rooms, while Glasgow is a 122-bedroom city centre property that has been the subject of “substantial” remodelling. The remaining five properties are currently trading as part of the Tune Hotels portfolio, under a franchise agreement. The properties, based in central London, will be rebranded as Point A Hotels by the end of March. Naushad Jivraj, Queensway Group chief executive, said: “Point A Hotels represents a change in strategic direction for Queensway. Through owning and managing our own hotel brand we plan to deliver a greater return on investment for shareholders.” He added the company intends to grow Point A Hotels “significantly” over the next few years, with the aspiration is to become a “well-loved and affordable” hotel brand. Point A Hotels will offer 1,100 rooms spread across its portfolio of seven hotels.

Burning Night Group to open sixth Bierkeller site next month: Late night operator Burning Night Group, led by Allan Harper, is to open its sixth Bierkeller site next month. The latest venue opens in the former Walkabout venue in Nottingham’s Friar Lane on Friday, 17 March. The 24,000 square foot complex will create more than 100 full and part-time jobs. It will be home to a traditional Bavarian Bierkeller in the basement, with live music from an oompah band, Around the World Bar and Lounge on the ground floor and Shooters, a sports bar, on the first floor, boasting the city’s biggest television screen. Burning Night Group operates Bierkeller sites in Birmingham, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. Harper said: “We are keen to keep growing and look for cities where we feel we can offer something unique as a leisure destination.”

JD Wetherspoon takes South Wales venue off market, Biggleswade pub and hotel set for July opening: JD Wetherspoon has removed the Tom Toya Lewis pub in Newport, South Wales, from the market, while it is set to start the refit of the Crown Hotel in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, ahead of a relaunch in July. The Tom Toya Lewis in Commercial Street was set to be auctioned by Allsop, with a guide price of £100,000 to £150,000. However, a Wetherspoon spokesman said the company had removed it from the market and would “retain it and continue to run it as one of its pubs”. The freehold pub was one of 33 venues Wetherspoon put up for sale in May. Meanwhile, the company said its refit of the former Crown Hotel in Biggleswade was “imminent”. There had been rumours the company would scrap the plans but Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said: “We are still committed to opening the pub and hotel. Our design team is set to look at the project once more before we go on-site. If it gives the go-ahead following the meeting, we aim to start development work in the coming weeks and have the pub and hotel open by July.” The work will cost £2.6m, with the hotel offering nine rooms.

Bluebird Bakery to open third Yorkshire site: Yorkshire-based Bluebird Bakery is to open a third site in the county, this time inside the newly restored Kirkgate Market in Leeds city centre. The new venue will launch on Saturday, 18 February specialising in chocolate brownies and pastries. The independent company is a member of the Real Bread Campaign, meaning all its loaves are long fermented, naturally yeasted, shaped by hand, and baked using organic flour. Bluebird Bakery owners Al and Nicky Kippax told BDaily: “Leeds is a buzzing, vibrant city and nowhere embodies that energy more than Kirkgate Market. We’re thrilled to be joining some of the best food producers in Europe’s largest undercover market. This is just how bread used to be made – nothing processed and nothing artificial. We use traditional methods and simple, wholesome ingredients and we’ll be offering Leeds customers a taste of real Yorkshire bread – be that sourdough, rye, ciabatta or a traditional bloomer.” Leeds City Council has invested more than £13m to refurbish Kirkgate Market, which now features fresh food areas, speciality markets, a dedicated events space and free Wi-Fi. Bluebird Bakery’s other sites are in York’s historic Shambles and Malton in Ryedale.

Italy’s oldest pizzeria opens first franchised UK restaurant: L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, the oldest pizzeria in Italy, has opened its first UK site, in London. The company has opened the restaurant in Church Street, Stoke Newington, having previously acquired the free-of-tie lease from a private vendor. The site, which was formerly a craft beer bar and cafe, is operating as a pizzeria under a franchise agreement with L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, which was founded in Naples in 1870. The venue is arranged over basement, ground and first floors, extending to about 2,022 square feet (187 square metres) and is let on the remainder of a 16-year lease at a rent of £44,000 per annum exclusive. Serena Sarnatoro, of L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele-London, said: “There are a lot of pizzerias in London but what sets us apart is our collaboration with the oldest and best-loved pizzeria in the world. Stoke Newington is renowned for its foodie culture – and discerning diners won’t be disappointed.”

Gourmet Burger Kitchen gets go-ahead for Leicester site: Gourmet Burger Kitchen has been given the go-ahead to open a site in Leicester. The company has been granted permission by the city council to open the restaurant at the Highcross shopping centre. It is investing £1.25m converting the former Laura Ashley store into the 122-seat restaurant, which is due to open on Monday, 3 July, creating 30 jobs. The venue will be set over two floors and include an open kitchen with customers able to choose banquette or booth seating. Gourmet Burger Kitchen marketing manager Laura Pettingale told Leicester Mercury: “We picked Highcross as it’s been developed massively over recent years and offers a great retail experience for our future customers.” Gourmet Burger Kitchen currently has 80 sites in the UK with its next restaurant due to open in Southport, Merseyside, on Monday, 13 February.

Pesto to open in Congleton this month: Pesto, which is focused on Italian food in a pub setting, will open its latest site, the Davenport Arms, in Marton, Congleton, later this month after a £600,000 refurbishment that will create 40 jobs. It will offer 100 covers and serve pasta, pizza and risotto dishes. Sara Edwards, who co-owns Pesto with Neil Gatt, said: “We are focused on building a team that can offer local customers an excellent standard of service. It’s also important that we invest in the local economy and these 40 new positions will help us do just that. We always keep our eyes open for the right opportunity and location for the next Pesto restaurant.”

Frome-based restaurateur to open second site: The owner of The River House cafe, bar and grill in Frome, Somerset, is set to open a second venue in the town. Ellen Porteous will open the Fat Radish restaurant and bar in Market Place at the end of February in partnership with River House head chef Pascale Vickery. Porteous told Somerset Live: “We’re limited in what we can do in the evening at The River House and so this place will give us the chance to really focus on the restaurant experience. We want it to be a complementary offering to what we’re doing down the road. Downstairs we’ll be serving casual meals, which you can just pop in and have and it won’t break the bank. Upstairs we’ll have a more fine-dining offering and, as with all our food, this will be fresh and home-made using locally sourced goods. Our seafood will be fresh and our meat will be from local farms. We’ll also have an extensive vegetarian and gluten-free range.”

Former Smoking Goat head chef launches Thai restaurant residency in Highbury: Seb Holmes, former head chef at Soho’s Thai barbecue restaurant Smoking Goat, has opened his pop-up concept Farang for a six-month residency that he hopes to turn into a permanent restaurant. Farang – “foreigner” in Thai – has appeared at London Union sites Dinerama and Hawker House and has now opened at the former San Daniele restaurant in Highbury Park. The menu features dishes such as Cornish mussels in a coconut, green curry and sweet basil broth, and pork belly and lobster with dipping vegetables and herbs. Holmes told Hot Dinners: “We will be making our own curry pastes as usual and have a large range of our own recipes we’re trying out at pop-ups and markets. If all goes to plan, I will be staying in this site for a minimum of one year and building my brand to allow myself time to decide Farang’s future.”

Kent-based pub operator acquires second site: Kent-based pub operator Andy Jordan-Smith has acquired his second site. Jordan-Smith, who owns The White Horse Inn in the village of Bridge, has bought The Phoenix Tavern in Faversham. He has acquired the site from David Selves, who also owns the four-star Faversham Creek Hotel in the town. Jordan-Smith told Kent Live: “David transformed the pub into a hub where people could enjoy fine cask ales, quality wines and smooth malt whiskies. My intention is to pick up the reins and keep the high standards expected by staff and customers.”

Cirencester-based restaurateur opens new peri peri concept in town: Cirencester-based restaurateur Foyez Rahman has opened a new peri peri concept in the Gloucestershire town. Rahman, who owns the Rajdoot Indian takeaway in Castle Street, has launched Loaded Grill next door. The menu includes peri prawn skewers and spiced locally reared chicken and steak, while there is also a dessert bar. Rahman told the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: “Cirencester now has some great restaurants and we hope we can add to that. Peri peri is something I have been looking at for four years and is a type of cuisine I think the town will really take to.”

Fuller’s teams up with former weatherman Michael Fish to offer free pint of London Pride through real-time social media campaign: London brewer and retailer Fuller’s has drawn on the expertise of former weatherman, Michael Fish, in its latest social media campaign, #whenitrainsitpours. Running for the whole of February, Fuller’s will be offering Twitter followers in London a free pint of London Pride each time in rains in the capital. At the centre of the campaign is a live-broadcast weather monitor, showing a windowpane via Twitter and Periscope and appearing in Twitter timelines. When rain appears on the Periscope window, it is the cue for followers to tweet in and claim their free pint of London Pride. The campaign is being supported by promoted tweets and posts on Facebook with tailored video content featuring Fish. London Pride has joined efforts with The Corner and UM London for this campaign. The Corner has been the brains behind the content and creative and UM London handled all media planning and buying. Fish said: “This is such an inspired idea. February can often be one of the dreariest months of the year, with the short days and wet weather, so a free pint of London Pride will certainly brighten up peoples’ days. I am excited to be part of this campaign, I’ve seen some very rare atmospheric phenomena, but even in all my years as a weatherman, I’ve never seen it rain beer.”

Tunbridge Wells-based restaurateurs to open French brasserie concept in town: Tunbridge Wells-based restaurateurs Maurizio and Ivan Di Santo are to open their second site in the Kent town. The brothers, who own tapas bar and restaurant Soprano, are launching a French brasserie concept in Vale Road. They have been given permission by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to convert the former Kent and Sussex Silver Jewellers. The two-storey restaurant, which will have a brasserie on the ground floor and a restaurant upstairs, is scheduled to open in March, with a cellar for wine-related events opening by September. The 30-cover brasserie, which will have a bar area for aperitifs and is at entry level, will be black and gold with exposed bricks and Thonet-style chairs. The 26-cover restaurant will be upstairs, with large period windows overlooking the railway station and there will also be an open kitchen with smoked glass and imported Italian leather furniture. It will have a lighter feel, with a blue and grey colour scheme. The menu will be seasonal, changing every two to three months, while the wine list will have more than 100 wines, reports Kent Live.

Gloucestershire-based Fat Toni’s Pizzeria lodges plans for first sit-down restaurant, in Stroud: Fat Toni’s Pizzeria, which operates takeaways in Stroud and Gloucester, has lodged plans for its first site-down restaurant. Owners Darren and Jason Orsi have applied to open a restaurant in the former Millets store in Stroud. Stroud District Council is considering the change of use application for the store on the corner of Kendrick Street and High Street, reports Gloucestershire Live. Fat Toni’s currently has a takeaway site in the town, in Gloucester Street. It is also planning a sit-down restaurant in Cheltenham to add to its takeaway in St Aldate Street, Gloucester.

Mossburn Distillers wins Scottish government backing for £40m whisky distillery: The Scottish government has cleared the way for a planned £40m whisky distillery in the Borders to proceed. The project, proposed by Mossburn Distillers, near Jedburgh, received unanimous support from councillors late last year. However, it needed Scottish government clearance due to flooding issues flagged up by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. It has now confirmed it does not intend to intervene, allowing Scottish Borders Council to give the green light. About 50 jobs could be created by the two-phase development being proposed at the former Jedforest Hotel. The first phase of the development between 2017 and 2018 would see a small distillery built to educate visitors in the “craft of making spirit”. A larger-scale distillery, capable of producing millions of bottles per year, would be completed by 2021.

Former pharmacist expands in Nottingham with third dessert parlour: Former pharmacist Aftab Rehman has opened his third Scoops Express dessert parlour, this time in Nottingham’s Sneinton Dale. It offers deliveries of its own Italian gelato ice cream. He already has two branches in his hometown Derby and the new 50-seater shop follows a number of dessert parlour openings in Nottingham, including Heavenly Desserts and Kaspa’s. Rehman, who worked at Boots for 14 years, said: “It will be our flagship store because we haven’t got anything as big as this. Nottingham doesn’t have many dessert delivery places and we’re the pioneers in Derby so I’m confident we’ll do well. This is a massively growing market, not just in the UK but abroad, particularly in Germany where it’s huge.”

Private equity firm buys majority stake in Ibiza nightclub business Pacha: A private equity firm has acquired what is thought to be a majority stake in nightclub group Pacha. Trilantic Europe, which was founded in 2009 by five partners who all worked together at Lehman Brothers, has tied up a deal with the Ibiza-based company that is reported to be worth up to £300m. The move will provide additional resources to fuel Pacha’s international expansion plan, Trilantic said. As well as running nightclubs across the world, Pacha has been diversifying its business by moving into hotels, restaurants and fashion. The group has been controlled by the Urgell family since its first club opened in the Catalonian town of Sitges in 1967. Its Ibiza club has been in operation since 1973. Ricardo Urgell, who founded Pacha with his brother Piti, will continue to be a shareholder of the company. “I want to welcome Trilantic Europe to our home,” he said. “I am very excited about this new phase of our group’s life, where I trust that, together with our new partner, we will undertake projects that will further contribute to the success achieved in the last 50 years.” Trilantic focuses on mid-market companies in western Europe, and has previously partnered with the likes of Spanish train manufacturer Talgo and telecoms company Euskaltel. “It is an honour that Ricardo Urgell has opened Pacha’s doors to us,” a Trilantic spokesman said. “We look forward to working together with him and the rest of the team on the very exciting future of the company.”