Business in brief

Like-for-like sales at J D Wetherspoon were down 29.5% in the 52 weeks to 29th July, the company reported on 16th October, having increased by 5.9% in the first half of the financial year. Profit before tax was down 133% to £34.1m. Chairman Tim Martin, forthright as ever, said the lockdowns were threatenting the entire economy. “The most important lesson, as Professor Mark Woolhouse, of Edinburgh University, has said, is that ‘lock-down just defers the problem; it doesn’t solve it’,” he said.

Group sales at Marston’s for the year ended 3rd October were £821m, 30% below last year. Total pub sales for the year were £515m, 34% below last year, principally reflecting the closure period and the impact of the disposal of 168 pubs for proceeds of £61m in the first half-year. In Marston’s Beer Company, sales for the year were £306m, 22% below last year.

Greene King Pub Partners has announced that all its tied pub tenants will receive at least a 40% rent discount up until Christmas, with pubs that are closed under government measures receiving a 90% rent discount. It brings the company’s estimated financial support for its 975 tied tenants to more than £25m since the covid-19 pandemic closed the UK’s pubs.

In its quarterly update, Shepherd Neame says its pubs have been trading successfully, and benefiting from Eat Out to Help Out in August, although like-for-like sales in managed premises were down 7.9%. In the 13 weeks since pubs were allowed to open, the business has been profitable and generating cash. Own brand beer and cider volumes since the start of the new financial year (on 28th June) were down 1.9% year on year.

Emma McClarkin

Best Bar None has appointed Emma McClarkin (pictured), chief executive of the BBPA, and Steve Alton, chief executive of the BII, to its board. The two prominent industry figures join chairman, Lord Smith of Hindhead, Philip Smith, and other members of the board — Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, Robert Humphreys, Mike Clist, former BII chief executive and industry stalwart, and David Lucas, of the Institute of Licensing — to make up a cross-section of industry leaders at the helm of the Home Office-backed scheme.

Seedrs and Crowdcube, who have helped many breweries expand, have agreed to a merger, subject to approval from the Competition and Markets Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority. Shareholder approval needs to be obtained, too.

Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I has reached a goal of sourcing 100% of its barley from British farms. It will be used in beers such as Budweiser and Stella Artois.

City Pub Group has reported revenue of £12.1m for the 26 weeks to 28th June, 2020, compared to £27.1m in the same period in 2019. However, it has seen strong revenues since re-opening in July, at around 80% of previous levels for pubs re-opened. So far, 37 of its 48 pubs are open.

Cider maker Aston Manor is investing £6m in its Birmingham site, adding a new packaging line.

Star Pubs and Bars, which is owned by Heineken, is to fund membership of the British Institute of Innkeepers (BII) for its leased and tenanted licensees. “We want to provide licensees with as much help as possible,” said Star managing director, Lawson Mountstevens.

Greene King is using Wagestream to give employees access to their wages before payday, to help them meet unexpected expenses.

Operating profit at Robinsons rose 13.5% to £3.7m in the year to December 31, 2019, with turover up £4.4m to £75m. During a ‘progressive’ year, the company acquired seven pubs,made significant investments in 19, and sold its free trade business to LWC.

Totally Natural Solutions, a major producer of hop oils, has unveiled a partnership with New Zealand’s NZ Hops. Initially, NZ Hops will supply 10 tonnes of product that TNS will convert to hop extracts for sample packs. Later, TNS will create a range of NZ Hops-branded oils.

Tom Davies Brakspear 2016

Brakspear owner JT Davies and Sons reported turnover up by 11% to £35.3m in the year to 29th December, 2019. Chief executive, Tom Davies (pictured), said: “Since July, trading has been better than we had feared and we are grateful to the government for its support. We are, however, extremely concerned about the unfounded anti-pub and restaurant rhetoric coming from the government in relation to the rise in covid cases.”

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