BREWING giant Heineken is heralding a fight back for the “great British pub” after unveiling plans to pump more than £13 million into refurbishing its bars.
The brewer’s Star Pubs & Bars unit, formerly the Scottish & Newcastle Pub Company, has spent £700,000 over the past three months in Scotland alone and has a further £603,000 earmarked for refits in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness in the coming weeks.
Trading director Chris Jowsey said his firm had spent £600m buying and doing up pubs since 2010 to take its estate up to 1,340 outlets. The total included deals to buy sites from Globe Pub Company and Royal Bank of Scotland.
“It’s a tough time to run a pub with more and more people spending less time and money in pubs,” he said.
“What we need is real investment, innovation and professionalism in the pub sector to attract more customers back to the great British pub.”
Landlords, who lease sites from Heineken, also pump some of their own cash into the refurbishments, with refits taking place at Annfield and William McEwan’s Ale House in Edinburgh, Otto Bar on Glasgow’s Byres Road – which will re-open in October as The Hill – and Blackfriars and Glenalbyne Bar in Inverness. Jowsey said that the refurbishment of bars usually involved offering more food and a “premiumisation” of drinks.
“For example, two of the pubs in Bristol that we recently refurbished are now taking more than £20,000 a week as opposed to £3,000 a week before,” he said. “We usually recover our costs through higher rents – because the pubs are making more money – or through higher beer sales.”
Dutch brewer Heineken teamed up with Danish rival Carlsberg in 2008 to break up Edinburgh-based Scottish & Newcastle, with Carlsberg taking much of its international business and Heineken retaining the UK operations, which include Deuchars India Pale Ale maker Caledonian Brewery.
News of Heineken’s investment comes after C&C Group, the Dublin-based owner of Tennent’s, last year lent £11.5m to 150 landlords in Scotland to refurbish their pubs.
Colin Valentine, national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale, said that any investment was welcome.
“As pub-going is going down, pub companies have to do something to get people back into pubs. If all you have is Tartan Special, Tennent’s lager and Sky Sports in the corner then why is anyone going to go to your pub?”