Wednesday, May 4, 2016

News: New owners for Corn Law Rhymer

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The Corn Law Rhymer, a popular pub in Rotherham town centre has closed this week but is set to reopen under new ownership at the weekend.

Hawthorn Leisure has acquired the Rotherham site from J D Wetherspoon for an undisclosed sum, one of eleven recent acquisitions by the innovative new pub company across the country.

The Corn Law Rhymer is housed in a property purpose built for the Yorkshire Bank when it opened in 1968. It is on the site of the long-standing Crown Inn which was first recorded in 1605. Previously know as The Litten Tree, its current name recalls Ebenezer Elliott, who achieved fame as the Corn Law Rhymer. The Rotherham-born poet's hard-hitting verses played a significant part in ending the unpopular corn laws which caused widespread hardship in the 19th century.

CBRE was appointed by J D Wetherspoon plc last November to sell 34 properties, which are being considered for sale either as a portfolio, in small packages or individually and are located in strong town and city centre locations within England, Scotland and Wales.

The freehold of the 6,103 sq ft High Street premises has now been sold. The vendor exchanged unconditional contracts to acquire the freehold interest in the property but this was not completed and delayed the operational sale until April 2016.

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The new owners, who are promising to offer great local value and favourite flavours with a twist of new deals, are set to re-open on Saturday May 7.

James Martin, new general manager at The Corn Law Rhymer, said: "Understanding Hawthorn Leisure's future plans for the Corn Law Rhymer really excited me. We will remain local, supporting The Millers but will also focus on creating a real buzz for the town centre, historically renown for a glam night out. We aim to be the go to venue for the party night out."

Hawthorn Leisure was formed in 2013 to acquire, invest in and support pubs across the UK. Backed by Avenue Capital Group, May Capital LLP and management, its first major deal saw it acquire a portfolio of 275 tenanted and leased public houses from Greene King in 2014.

Gerry Carroll, chief executive for Hawthorn Leisure, said: "We are delighted to have purchased the Corn Law Rhymer and welcome staff into the Hawthorn team. We have carefully selected our food and drinks menus to ensure we are delivering great offers to valued customers.

"The opening and re-introduction of the Sunday lunch is only the start of a host of activities, events and deals that we have planned for the coming months, all set to deliver a great proposition for locals.

"In the past year, we have made fantastic progress in further building our team and operational capabilities, both in leased / tenanted and managed pubs, and we look forward to continuing this trajectory of growth. Our relentless focus on people, quality and delivering great value will ensure these pubs continue to offer a fantastic proposition for their existing and new customers."

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J D Wetherspoon plc recently posted results for the 26 weeks ended January 24 2016 which showed an increase in turnover to £790.3m but profits were hit by the introduction of the Living Wage and the continued tax disparity between supermarkets and pubs.

Net sales at The Corn Law Rhymer were boosted from £1.09m to £1.36m when Rotherham United opened its New York Stadium in 2012 but sales declined to £1.22m in 2014/15.

The disposal leaves two Wetherspoon's pubs in Rotherham town centre - The Bluecoat and The Rhinoceros.

Tim Martin, chairman of J D Wetherspoon plc, recently told trade publication, MCA that it had acquired pubs cheaply after the credit crunch but realised that: "We don't have ten types of pubs, having two close to each other didn't work out as planned. That made us think again about how many pubs we can open in a certain area."

Across town, the former Effingham Arms has had another refresh, with Enterprise Inn's community pub arm, The Craft Union Pub Company, investing in the venue now called The Plough.

Hawthorn leisure
J D Wetherspoon website

Images: CBRE

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