Heineken-owned pub operator confirms half its 230 Scottish pubs to reopen: rent support extended

Star Pubs & Bars, the Heineken-owned pub operator, is to extend rent reductions after revealing that about half its 230 pubs in Scotland are set to reopen on Monday.

With half of the estate remaining closed under “onerous” restrictions, the Edinburgh-headquartered firm said it was continuing its rent reduction support until those restrictions are fully lifted.

By May 17 – when Covid measures are expected to be further eased – the company will have invested some £5.7 million in rent cuts to help its Scottish pubs through the pandemic. Its rent reduction support for the UK now stands at £62m, Star noted.

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Managing director Lawson Mountstevens said: “We know the rent relief, which represents a significant investment on behalf of Star Pubs & Bars during challenging times for the whole industry, will have a significant bearing on the future sustainability of our licensees’ businesses – and clearly we want to see our pubs thrive in the long-term.

Basils in Newhaven Edinburgh. Pictured is operations manager Ross Edgar. Picture: Mark F Gibson/Gibson Digital

“We’re delighted that the Scottish Government has allowed us to reopen but the restrictions are onerous. Pubs are in a fragile state. The Scottish Government urgently needs to provide additional financial assistance or scrap the nonsensical curfews and restrictions on drinking alcohol indoors that will hamper the recovery of Scotland’s pubs.

“The pandemic has shown the true partnership nature of leased and tenanted pubs. Throughout, we have tried to shoulder a fair share of the burden on Scotland’s pubs.

“Most independent free trade pubs have not had this kind of backing from their landlords. It is therefore hugely disappointing that the Scottish Government has chosen this time to pass the Tied Pubs (Scotland) Bill, which jeopardises the tied pubs model.”

Star Pubs & Bars is part of Dutch brewing giant Heineken. It has 230 pubs in Scotland and 2,500 across the UK. The majority of its pubs are leased out to small businesses and entrepreneurs with a supply agreement in place.

The firm said its licensees around Scotland had been busy revamping their outdoor spaces in preparation for Monday.

Over the last two months, licensee Neil Douglas of Basils on Annfield in Newhaven, Edinburgh, has upgraded an alfresco area he added to the pub during the first lockdown.

Carrying out much of the work himself, Douglas has installed sail-like covers, festoon lighting and new planting as well as fencing to shelter customers from the sea breezes.

He said: “Feedback has been tremendous. People have really missed popping into their local and meeting up with friends. They’re excited to have a safe outdoor space on their doorstep.

“We’re fully booked for the first week and are filling up fast after that. We can’t wait to welcome the community back. I’m optimistic for the future but prepared for anything, as the pandemic is far from over.

“Pubs desperately need certainty and as much notice as possible that they can trade more normally from May 17.

“The 90 per cent rent cuts we’ve had from Star have kept Basils afloat. By comparison, I’ve received no decrease in rent at one of my privately leased restaurants and only 25 per cent at the other.”

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