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Case Studies

Example 1 - (Run-down Pub Company Disposal): This pub was owned by a national pub company which had neglected it for years and consequently there had been “revolving door” tenants for some time. Trade had suffered and just prior to our instruction the pub had closed and was bought immediately by a property developer who wanted to convert the pub to a house for which he needed change-of-use permission. Potential stumbling blocks were the fact that the business had lacked leadership and expertise for several years and once operated successfully under private ownership. What’s to say that it would not succeed again? Another problem was that the pub had not been fully marketed over a period of time as a going concern. The developer bought the property but might there have been a proficient operator out there somewhere? One favourable point was that there was one other pub in the village, a social club, post office and general store. We compiled a detailed report showing how the other businesses more than catered for all the residents’ demands and we eventually proved that our pub was no longer viable as such and had only one life left – as a grand house. The application was granted.

Example 2 - (Wet-led Town Pub hit by Recession): Owned by a couple in their 60’s who had been at the pub for 16 years, this was once a vibrant and successful business. However, since the smoking ban and the new leisure centre opposite with funky bars and restaurants trade had dipped dramatically over the last two years. The owners had built up a solid following of mainly cask ale drinkers and there was no food offer. Critically there was no outside trade area so most of the smokers, who represented a staggering 65% of the regulars, drifted off to one of many pubs in the vicinity. Now our couple were ready to retire but the market had fallen away and they could not sell the pub at a realistic price as turnover was incommensurate with the asking price which in itself was fair considering the extent of the bricks and mortar. After 9 months on the market we were called in to give our opinion. We built our report around the effect of the national trend on the business, supermarket opposite, new bars nearby, lack of a smoking facility and we carried out a survey amongst the locals. After 4 weeks intensive work the report was ready and a site meeting was arranged with the local planner. Despite opposition from CAMRA and some locals who never used the pub in any case the application was successful and (nearly) everyone was happy.

Example 3 (Closed Village Pub with ACV Listing): This Grade II listed property is in a large village near Salisbury and was owned by a major pub company. The building was suffering from a lack of investment and a trail of 10 tenants in 12 years. The last tenant had walked away and the owning company boarded up the pub and placed it on the market with a national pub agent. A lady developer acquired the site after 6 months of marketing and out of the blue a nomination was received by the Council for the building to be listed as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). We were called in when the agent referred the developer to us and when the building was ACV listed we immediately requested a review of the decision. We had a strong case as the pub had been closed for a long period and had not been sufficiently supported by the local community. The decision to list the pub as an ACV was revoked and a sound case for a change of use was in place. This was based on the business becoming unviable and the fact that there was no interest from pub operators in acquiring the property and there were three other pubs within comfortable walking distance. The Grade II listed building required urgent works carrying out as the roof was leaking and part of the foundations sinking but these issues were addressed within the overall proposal for the site. We represented the developer at the planning committee meeting having already lobbied members and the application was granted on a show of hands after we had addressed the committee.

Example 4 (Village Pub Purchased in 2006 at the Peak of the Market): This pub is in a well-known village near Bristol and was acquired when the market was at its peak. The building comprised bars, restaurant, function room, letting bedrooms and a car park. The owners were concerned that trade had declined since the recession and all the issues which have affected the industry were biting. Communities have changed habits and are spending more time at home. Who can blame them when supermarket alcohol is so cheap and the joys of the internet offer so much in the way of home entertainment? the function room was not sufficiently used as it was more economical for the community to book the village hall for parties. There was another pub in the village which was a fine-dining venue and drew trade from Bristol whereas our subject pub didn't have the configuration for such a facility. The bedrooms required refurbishment and the kitchen was outdated. We were called in to assess the possibility of a change of use but the strict criteria we set in order to take on a case were not met. The accounts were showing a profit although cash-flow was tight and the pub was not on the market. The owners were in a tight corner and struggling to keep the business going. We made a proposal that the function room at the rear and three of the ten bedrooms on the first floor should be hived off and planning submitted for two residential dwellings with parking spaces and reasonable gardens. We drew up plans by incorporating the services of our architect colleague and the viability report was processed. There were in effect two reports with one projecting how the business would fail if nothing changed and the second prognosis showing how the disposal of the two residential sites would enable the owners to update the remainder of the property and to bring the overall investment back to generate a realistic commercial return on the investment. The application was granted and the sites were sold for housing. The pub is now looking immaculate and turnover has increased. The loss-making function room has reduced costs and the newly refurbished bedrooms are commanding a higher rack rate. All because our scheme and the effectiveness of the viability report we submitted with the application. Job done!


FAQ's:

How will your report help me obtain permission for change-of-use?
We can never guarantee 100% that your application will succeed. Much depends on the location of your pub, its surroundings, the people living around it and a multitude of other factors. We will probably not be able to help if we consider that your chances of success are remote. However, recently we were successful with an application which we first rated at 70/30 against succeeding. Much depends on the local planners and how we translate what they want into our report. You will find that a report covering viability, marketing history and taking into consideration the local residents is essential to your application.  

So how much will the report cost me? Our reports vary in cost depending on the degree of difficulty. Some cases are easier to prove than others and fall into the £1,250-1,500 fee band. Those pubs where more research is required, there is concerted effort from the community to resist the proposals or there are no trading accounts fall into the middle fee band of £1,500-£2,000. The highest band of £2,500 applies to any pub within the M25 as there is far more legislation to address. Usually an entire development can depend on the quality of our report often involving millions of pounds. In other cases a pub owner's livlihood is at risk and our report can make or break the situation. Note: Please read the section in Terms & Conditions relating the initial free enquiry and possible free site inspection and for our terms of payment.

What do I need to contribute to the report?
You will be asked to provide as much trading information as possible and where your customers come from. Our experience at the sharp end of the industry enables us to evaluate the style of your business very quickly but we will need specific information such as how you have marketed the business, do you get on with the locals, is the food offer appropriate or would the business operate more successfully if there was a different landlord. Our questions are probing and sometimes personal but the success of the report depends much on the detail therein.

Do you only deal with change-of-use applications?
No, we are sometimes asked to look at change-of-use to residential and spot other avenues such as a different retail outlet, community amenity or a partial development scheme on the land to release capital. That is why we work closely with an architect who is conversant with the leisure industry and knows how the planners work. We also handle change of use applications or hotels and restaurants and we now act for owners where buildings are listed as an Asset of Community Value, fighting to have the listing revoked.

Is the architect included in the price?
Not really. Our local associate Stuart Sinclair, Architect, will sometimes accompany us on the initial site visit if through the previous telephone discussion there appears to be a need for him to attend. Any other architectural works are negotiated directly with Stuart whose fees are fair and reasonable. You will need a basic floor plan for example for any application and Stuart can quote for this and advise you on anything from an extension to a full development scheme. It’s important for you to have a scheme in mind to accompany a change-of-use application to residential as the planners will want to know what is replacing the pub.

Do I get my money back if the application fails?
No, certainly not! We cannot guarantee 100% success but we only enter into the work if there is at least a reasonable chance of success. Some companies or chartered surveyors will charge a much higher fee and still won’t refund any part of it. We have found that the fairest way is to charge a reasonable fee and undertake to adjust the report for no extra charge if we all feel that any alterations or amendments are justified.
Note: Please read the terms & Conditions section relating to how and when you pay and non refunds.

Do you accept credit or debit cards as payment?
No, we only accept payment by cheque or bank transfer. You can, of course, pay cash!

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