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Bell Fountain disposal signals upturn for leisure sector

05 May 2015

The recent disposal of the Bell Fountain pub restaurant at Wigston marks another successful outcome for recoveries and restructuring expert Mike Allwood.

Arguably Leicestershire’s only specialist within a complex field of the property market, Mike, a Partner in leading East Midlands commercial property agent Andrew and Ashwell, believes the leisure sector is beginning to resurface after a long, punishing recession.

Spending time in pubs is all in the line of duty for Mike, but propping up the bar for him literally means the serious business of keeping enterprise up and running.

With more than 20 years’ experience working to save pub, club and hotel buildings across the country Mike knows the leisure sector inside out. He comes highly recommended, acting as a skilled negotiator between breweries, licensees and financial institutions, to obtain win-win results.

He was called upon to negotiate the sale of a long leasehold interest in The Bell Fountain to pub chain Spirit, which will secure the pub-restaurant’s immediate future. Renamed The Two Steeples Fayre and Square, the venue’s 11,500 sq ft of space includes a huge Wacky Warehouse play area, which makes it a popular place for families to socialise.

Mike has just completed another deal on an Essex pub that had gone into receivership and has now been bought by top chef, Daniel Clifford, recently seen on Channel 4’s Burger Bar to Gourmet Star. The chef-proprietor of two Michelin star Cambridge restaurant, Midsummer House, bought the freehold of the Flitch of Bacon and plans to reopen later this summer following a £500,000 refurbishment.

Mike has also recently negotiated the sale of a three-star country hotel in the Peak District and has put another hotel on the market in nearby Matlock.

The decline of the Midlands pub scene has been a daunting challenge for the sector in recent years, as Mike explains:

“In 2009 UK pubs were closing at a rate of 52 per week, hit by the global recession, not only with falling values, but also a reduction in use, as people cut back on leisure spending. The smoking ban was the final straw for many outlets.”

Further closures involved many traditional workingmen’s clubs, which, rather than being resold or let within the trade, have often been developed for alternative community use, giving local areas a new focus.

Within a highly competitive industry, invention is key to survival, says Mike.

“Outlets and chains providing a good food offering and diversification in their style of trade tend to be more successful, a trend that is set to continue, as people expect real value.

“General enquiries and demand across all commercial sectors have improved since the start of 2015. The leisure market continues to be more challenging than other sectors, but we have concluded a number of deals recently, which demonstrates improved positivity.

“It is unknown what impact the outcome of the general election will have, but it is hoped the market will continue to move forward.”