Ascot Inns to open US-style pizzeria in Reading with £500,000 Star Pubs and Bars partnership: Ascot Inns, the multi-site operator led by Vince Healy, is to open The Thirsty Bear, a US-style pizzeria in Reading in March after a £500,000 investment in partnership with Star Pubs & Bars. It will occupy the site of a former gay pub in Reading which has stood empty for 18 months. The Wynford Arms in King’s Road closed in May 2015. It will provide 20 jobs with staff trained by a world-class pizza chef. The downstairs of the building will be opened up to create a bar area with an open plan pizza kitchen and dessert kitchen with barista coffee stations. Upstairs, the unused accommodation will be converted into a lounge with a Wurlitzer jukebox. A roof garden will also be created on a flat roof extension with seating for 45 people. The bar will have 30 different types of Bourbon as well as American beers, wines and gins. Lawson Mountstevens, Star Pubs & Bars managing director, said: “It’s great to be able to reopen the Wynford Arms and complement the regeneration of the surrounding area. Vince has many years experience in hospitality. We are delighted that he is working with us to secure the pub’s future and are confident the Thirsty Bear will bring something distinctive and different to Reading.”

BrewDog eyes April to produce beers in the US: BrewDog expects to open its taproom and restaurant in Canal Winchester, Ohio next month. Testing is expected to start on the fermentation system next month also, with beer production starting in April. The craft brewer originally planned for beer to begin flowing in August 2016. Its first US brewpub, slated for the Franklinton neighborhood in Columbus, now won’t open until 2018. Co-founder James Watt admitted that the delays, late equipment and the Brexit vote – which caused the collapse of the British pound against the US dollar – caused a bit of concern. “I wasn’t sure we’d be able to do it,” he said. “It’s a hell of a gamble. It’s a $30m project that we decided to do off a 24-hour visit.” BrewDog is planning to launch in 2017 with about 100,000 barrels of production, which would make it the second-largest Ohio-based craft brewery. Great Lakes Brewing Co. is the biggest. “We never get too nervous about big, macro-level things,” Watt said. “We try to control what we can control.”

Starbucks hires Cavendish for public affairs brief: Starbucks has given its public affairs brief to Cavendish Communications after a competitive pitch. The company previously engaged Finsbury for public affairs. Finsbury was first called in by Starbucks in late 2012 as the coffee firm faced a public outcry over its UK corporation tax arrangements. Finsbury continues to be retained by Starbucks for corporate affairs work. Starbucks’ UK public affairs activity is overseen by corporate affairs chief Simon Redfern, a former director at Fishburn Hedges and Pagefield. Cavendish founder Alex Challenor said: “The pitch was an expansion of an existing brief in local government to cover a more national brief on telling Starbucks’ story on issues such as skills, youth employment and housing to policy makers.” A source at Finsbury said the agency had previously been working for Starbucks “on a cross-office basis, which included public affairs”. The source said that while Finsbury would continue to provide corporate communications support, Starbucks had also wanted a new agency to provide “more localised planning application support”.

JD Wetherspoon closes Worthing pub after sale: JD Wetherspoon pub in Worthing town centre, The Sir Timothy Shelley, has closed down after being sold. A spokesperson for JD Wetherspoon confirmed the freehold had been sold to a company called Lace Street Capital, but they did not know what the building would be used for in future.

Organic farm and restaurant operator to open hotel: A business that operates an organic farm and two restaurants is to open a hotel. Helen Browning’s Organic runs a Eastbrook Farm in Bishopstone, near Swindon. The company also operates The Royal Oak in Cues Lane, Bishopstone, and The Chop House in Wood Street, Old Town. In March, the company will open a new mini-hotel in the heart of Bishopstone. Tim Finney, who will oversee the new venture, said: “Our plans for this coming year are fantastic. One of our main responsibilities as a business is to create as many jobs as possible. We are quite a pioneering business – organic farming in the mid-1980s was a particularly radical thing to do. And we hope the hotel will bring jobs for a few more people in the village. I think it will look rather nice in the village when it’s up and running. It’s certainly something to look forward to. We will double the size of the business if we can make this work. It can be nerve-racking, but it’s great fun.”

Gordon Ramsay protégé opens first pub, inspired by The Star Inn, Harome, North Yorkshire: Gordon Ramsay protégé Steve Ellis has opened The Oxford Blue in Old Windsor. Ellis also worked at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen but it was his time spent at Andrew Pern’s Star Inn that provided the inspiration for his solo venture. In charge of the pastry is Ellis’s partner Ami Blakey. Meeting originally at The Star Inn six years ago, Blakey has spent time in some of London’s top restaurants including The Ledbury, to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. A complete renovation has created 60 covers.

CG Restaurants and Bars eyes summer 2017 opening for Dirty Martini in Manchester: CG Restaurants & Bars’ brand Dirty Martini is set to join Manchester’s thriving nightlife scene in the summer of 2017. After the success of their first stage of national expansion in Cardiff, Dirty Martini has acquired a site subject to conditions at 211 – 217 Deansgate, Manchester from Bruntwood Estates. The company plans to invest £1.5m in the conversion of the 6,700 square foot three floor retail and office space. CG Restaurants & Bars has taken the brand from a 1,200 square foot basement in Covent Garden to a nine strong group and the Manchester site will become the tenth site in its portfolio. The expansion builds upon the recent success of Dirty Martini Cardiff, which has exceeded budgeted sales by 10.2%. The site also reported generating over 12,000 pre-booked covers since opening late October. Scott Matthews, chief executive at Dirty Martini, said: “We are excited about opening our first site outside London in the North, in Manchester. Our recent expansion in Cardiff has been a huge success, and as a result we are progressing with our national expansion strategy with confidence.” The bar group currently operates in Bishopsgate, Clapham, Covent Garden, Hanover Square, Islington, Monument, St Paul’s, Minories and Cardiff.

New Papa John’s franchisee opens site after seeing success of brother in Dundee: A new Papa John’s franchisee Dave Foster has opened a site in Cheshire after seeing how well his brother Sam, is doing with a franchised Papa John’s outlet in Dundee. “Pizza is in our family,” said Dave Foster. “My father worked as a franchisee for a rival firm for many years, while myself and my brother Sam also worked in the industry before cooking up plans to run our own franchised pizza stores. I originally started out as a delivery driver for the same company as my Dad, I worked my way up to shift manager and then area manager. After 12 years it was time to stop making pizza and start making money! I had seen how well my brother was doing with Papa John’s, how the company was expanding and that there was an incentive scheme to help new franchisees starting out. Deals on equipment and reduced royalty fees took a healthy slice off the final investment needed to set up, giving me just the boost I needed. Even with my background, training has been thorough. I spent time at Papa John’s HQ in Milton Keynes and then worked in my brother’s store for three weeks too. I have been impressed how much attention is given to making the pizzas to create a superior product that tastes better than the competition. In Ellesmere Port my wife Rachael, who was also a training manager for the pizza firm we used to work for, will now help me run the business. When it comes to recruiting and training staff, it will be great to be working with someone I trust and who is so experienced in this area. Our plan is to add one or two more franchised stores next year as we believe Papa John’s has all the right ingredients for success.”

Australian-influenced Timmy Green becomes the first restaurant to open in Nova Victoria: Timmy Green, a brand new all-day Australian restaurant and bar from the founders of brunch haunt Daisy Green, has opened its doors in Nova, Victoria. Creative small plates (designed to share) and big prime steaks (cooked to order on the Josper charcoal grill) feature. The 120-cover venue features a dedicated bar area with live music (via a baby grand piano and dedicated DJ booth), an upbeat restaurant (set over two floors), extensive outdoor lounging and an alfresco coffee bar. Original artworks and sculptures feature prominently with huge, six-metre high, private commissions by British artists Louise Dear, Shuby and Nancy Wood, as well as a giant egg by famous pop artist Sir Peter Blake. In addition, a live Instagram printer allows guests to instantly print and share their memories. The venue is now open seven days from 7am until late (from 8am on weekends). Timmy Green comes as the first restaurant/bar to open in the high-end food centric ‘Nova’ Development in Victoria (www.novasw1.com/novafood). In the coming months, Timmy will be joined by the likes of Jason Atherton, Will Ricker, D&D, ETM and Sticks ‘n Sushi.

Weston reports sales nudge £60m as market premiumises: Cider maker Westons is poised to take advantage of the “premiumisation” of the UK cider market as sales edged toward the £60m mark. The latest accounts for H Weston & Sons Ltd showed turnover hit £59.1m in the year to 31 March 2016, up from £58.6m a year earlier. Pre-tax profit also rose to £2.8m from £1.7m in 2015. A statement filed with the results said that while total volumes in the UK cider market fell by 1.5%, value was up by 0.8%. Price per litre also increased due to customers seeking quality craft ciders. During the period, Westons boosted its market share position from 4.8% to 5.5%. Sales from the UK were almost £57m, while revenue generated from Europe fell slightly. In a statement filed with the results, Westons said it is “well insulated” from any “external shocks” brought on by the Brexit vote and added that the depreciation of sterling would be “helpful” to its export activities. The statement also said that the company would continue to invest in new plant to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Westons can trace its roots back to 1878 and sells its cider to more than 40 countries across the world.

Eden Project reports sales above £20m: Sales have passed the £20m mark at the Eden Project in Cornwall, boosted by rising visitor numbers. According to results for trading subsidiary Eden Project Ltd, turnover for the year to 27 March 2016 was £20.7m, up from £18m in 2014/15. Operating profit before depreciation and release of deferred capital grants also grew by 30% to £1.8m while pre-tax losses reduced to £655,000 from £1.1m the previous year. During 2015/16 Eden also reduced its loans and leasing liabilities by £1.4m. Eden said growth had been helped by an 11.6% rise in visitor numbers during the 12-month period. Alongside the attraction, the business operates a range of projects including The Big Lunch community programme, higher education provision, commitment to apprenticeships, the launch of the HotHouse leadership development programme and the provision of on-site accommodation. Eden Project executive director David Harland said: “This has been the third year in succession of steady improvement in Eden’s finances as it continues to be sustainable. This allows us to invest further in our charitable programmes. The significant increase in our trading surplus is due largely to previous investments into both the site and other programmes and developments starting to bear fruit.” In September 2015, Eden signed an agreement to develop a new Eden Project in the city of Qingdao, China. Harland added: “We are expecting the project to move forward rapidly during 2016/17. While it is too early to reveal any further overseas projects, the team have been working on a number of potential projects to achieve the mission of an Eden on every inhabited continent. We hope to be able to announce a new project in Australia during 2016/17, as well as further developments in China, the US and mainland Europe.” In November 2016, revised plans were submitted for a £8.5m, 109-bedroom hotel at the Eden Project.

Gusto set to open in West Bridgford, Nottingham next month: Restaurant brand Gusto is set to create 50 jobs when it opens in West Bridgford next month. A million-pound investment has seen the former Monkey Tree restaurant and pub on Bridgford Road transform into the new branch of Gusto, which opens in February. Sue Crimes, managing director for Gusto, said: “We’re really excited to open our latest bar and restaurant, especially in the vibrant West Bridgford location. By hosting a recruitment day in January, with 50 vacancies available, we hope to create great opportunities for the local people, as well as finding the best fit for the jobs that are on offer. Not only does Gusto offer exceptional food and drink with high level service in a welcoming environment, but we also look after our staff extremely well, creating a fun working environment, with an extensive training programme and excellent career progression.”

New burger concept opens in Reigate offering a flavor of the East: A new burger concept that incorporates Eastern influences has opened in Reigate’s High Street. Eighty Ate Burger, at number 88, opened on the site of the former Mexicode restaurant. It is run by Petngam Wongprasert, also known as Chim, who also owns Regional Thai Taste in the same road. And those Eastern influences can be seen on the burger menu. It sells pork belly burger with Chinese fried spice, grilled chilli with house-made green curry sauce and fresh basil and peanut butter sauce chicken burger with arjard pickled cucumber and warm coconut peanut sauce. A chorizo pesto burger includes grilled sweet potato, chorizo, rocket and pesto mayonnaise. There are sides such birds nest caramalised sweet potato fries and battered plantain fries with coconut flakes. The starter menu features such dishes as crispy fried pork ribs and grilled halloumi and pineapple.

Brick Lane restaurant director disqualified for eight years: The director of a Brick Lane Indian restaurant has been disqualified from acting as a company director for eight years for failing to provide proper accounting records for his company. MD Taj Uddin, 37, was the a director of Spice of Sylhet which traded as Papadoms. Uddin has provided an undertaking to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy preventing him from being a director of a company whether directly or indirectly, or be involved in the management of a company in any way for the duration of his disqualification unless he has permission from Court. The disqualification follows an investigation by the Insolvency Service which found Uddin also deliberately failed to ensure that Spice of Sylhet Limited had properly and accurately accounted for VAT to HMRC. Without proper accounting records, it was not possible in particular to verify the true level of takings, reasons for payments of £265,418 including cash withdrawals of £27,827 from the company bank account during the periods November 2013 to April 2015. The fact that no wage records were produced meant it was not possible to establish the number of staff employed, level of wages paid and the amounts of tax and National Insurance contributions due. At liquidation, the company owed in excess of £199,000 to HMRC in relation to arrears of VAT, PAYE and National Insurance contributions. Uddin, however, had disclosed in the Statement of Affairs that the debt to HMRC was £21,434. An HMRC investigation revealed that during the period of trading, the restaurant takings had been deliberately concealed. HMRC notified Uddin of this and assessed the level of concealment as £78,128 VAT and also imposed Civil Penalties of £73,113.

Jump launches second UK site: Jump, the urban trampoline brand, has opened its second UK site at Meadowhall. The 23,500 sq ft stand-alone location is the brand’s biggest in the UK, and hosts a range of trampoline activities and fitness classes, including 120 interconnected trampolines, airbags, slam dunk nets, a running zone and a performance zone. In addition, dodgeball, wall running, jump towers and tumble tracks are available. Open seven days a week, the purpose built park features its own cafe, a viewing gallery and individual party rooms that can accommodate up to 60 people. Chris Hayes, the founder of Jump, who grew up in Sheffield, added: “We are pleased to have launched Jump at Meadowhall. This is our second UK site, and we are confident Meadowhall’s status as the leading retail and leisure destination in the region will ensure our brand’s success. We are confident the concept will be popular with the local community and those from further afield alike as we continue to promote health and fitness to people of all ages.” CBRE and Smith Young acted for Meadowhall. Morgan Martin acted for Jump.

Crepeaffaire reports 16% like-for-like growth in 2016: Crepeaffaire, the leading crêpe concept, has reported strong sales growth for the year ending 31 December 2016, up +35% on the previous year and +16% in like-for-like terms. Crepeaffaire’s founder Daniel Spinath said: “Our continued quality upgrades and product initiatives have really paid off. Our new sites have been well received. And 2017 looks very promising with new product launches and openings in the UK and beyond.” The brand has embarked on an ambitious roll-out plan in the UK and is developing its franchised business abroad. It is planning up to 12 openings over 2017. Added Spinath: “There continues to be real appetite for our products in a variety of formats and locations. Crêpes are the optimum versatile envelopes for all kinds of fillings and meal occasions.”