Pub company upbeat after takings rise over Christmas

Posted On 29 Jan 2011 at 4:13 am

The owner of more than a dozen Brighton and Hove pubs and restaurants reported a rise in takings over Christmas and the new year.

Mitchells and Butlers, which owns Browns in Duke Street, Brighton, and the Sussex Cricketer in Hove, announced the news in a trading statement to investors.

It said that revenues rose 6.7 per cent from Thursday 23 December to Monday 3 January.

The pub company also said that much of the improvement in trading was down to food sales, which now account for nearly half of all sales.

The update was in contrast to the snowy spell earlier in December when takings fell.

The company’s other pubs in the area include the Grenadier in Hangleton, the Park View in Preston Drove, the Black Lion at Patcham, the Font and the Pump House in the centre of Brighton, the Katarina at Brighton Marina and the Saltdean Tavern.

Although Mitchells and Butlers said that the new year had started well, the sector as a whole still faces tough competition, not least from supermarkets.

Hove Conservative MP Mike Weatherley set out his concerns in a recent House of Commons debate in Westminster Hall.

He also said that it would help if the government relaxed the licensing rules relating to live music.

He said: “Pubs play important roles as community hubs in many constituencies throughout the country.

“We need to consider how they can be protected and helped to flourish in future.

“Live music, in particular, can contribute very positively towards supporting pubs and their future earnings.

“Pubs with featured music take 44 per cent more money than pubs without featured music.

“And, on average, pubs without featured music are three times more likely to close than pubs with featured music.

“In Hove and Portslade, which I represent, and in the wider Brighton area, we are fortunate that we are reasonably well served by music venues.

“That adds greatly to the local economy.

“The government has an important role to play in removing unnecessary regulation.

“The previous government brought in the Licensing Act 2003, along with a big promise that live music would flourish as a result of the change in the law.

“In truth, the act has made it difficult, costly and administratively time-consuming to make live music a part of the licence for premises whose main business is not to provide music.”

Mr Weatherley said that live music had never been linked to crime and disorder or binge drinking so should not be treated in itself as a concern.

He said: “Unfortunately, residents are encouraged to object to, but not to support, applications to promote live music.

“Licensing committees should give live music the benefit of the doubt.

“I salute the work of the Noise Abatement Society, based in Hove, and its ‘Sound Approach’ scheme, which helps to facilitate good relationships between responsible venues and those living nearby.

“We have a commitment in the coalition agreement to reduce red tape and promote live music, which I very much welcome.”

Mr Weatherley called on the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition to amend the Licensing Act at the earliest opportunity.

He said: “We should be able to exempt venues with a capacity of 200 persons or fewer from the need to obtain a licence for live music.

“An exemption enabling venues of any size to put on a performance of non-amplified music would also be welcome.

“We need to find ways to allow live music to flourish.

“If we do that, we can, in an incremental way, help our pubs to remain open and at the heart of our communities.”

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