Last month in England, our pubs and bars finally threw open their doors to welcome us back inside for that much missed pint.
However, Government guidelines remain with punters and landlords asked to adhere to rules including capacity being restricted in line with social distancing and table service only.
In view of the new “rules” some establishments continue to struggle, especially those with smaller premises. Will they re-open at all? There has been talk of only two in five pubs opening. Near the Sirius Property Finance office in the City of London, you cannot help but feel saddened when at 1:30pm on Friday lunchtime you walk past, once thriving, pubs whose doors remain shut, lights off and stools stacked.
Some publicans have benefitted from Bounce-back Loans (BBL’s) and CIBLS Loans, as well as the Government’s Furlough Scheme. Whilst this support has been welcomed and benefitted many, is it enough? Some operators have adapted and introduced a takeaway service which has been a huge success and is likely to remain a permanent feature. Some, situated outside of residential areas, are less able to capitalise on this.
One problem facing many pub and bar owners is that whilst some support has been available, most High Street Banks have amended their lending policies to more conservative levels and others have pulled out of the market all together.
However, it is not all “doom and gloom”. At Sirius we have been busy supporting our clients by finding commercial solutions to assist experienced operators to purchase new businesses, or refinance to release equity for capital expenditure or expansion. Where the High Street may have lost its appetite to support the Licensed Leisure Sector, there are alternative lenders and Challenger Banks who remain consistently supportive and will be more willing to take a flexible approach on lending to viable businesses and borrowers. Many are focussing on “pre-COVID” trading figures to access debt serviceability and in principle, are lending on average up to 65% loan to value (against the Freehold going concern value).
With several pubs closing, opportunities are created and whilst some will be snapped up by developers for conversions, I would like to think that many will be acquired by seasoned operators looking to expand or embark on a new venture to meet the pent-up demand. This has led to many asking us the question – can you get finance to purchase a closed pub? We have access to lenders who, if the proposal makes sense, will support such a purchase, again with debt of around 65% of the property value. Often interest can be ‘rolled up’ providing an ideal short-term steppingstone until the business is open, trading and generating sufficient cashflow to support a Term Loan over approximately 15-20 years.
Post-pandemic, the lending landscape for pub financing has never been more of a minefield thus partnering with a real estate finance brokerage who have strong relationships with specialist lenders and who genuinely understand the niche sector is proving invaluable.
Landlords, front of house, chefs, bartender, and cleaners alike are all working overtime and need your support more than ever to make the effort worthwhile. A recent study has estimated that every adult in Britain needs to consume approximately 124 pints of beer (or 976 packs of crisps) to save our pub industry following the pandemic. If ever there was an excuse to get down to your local establishment, this is it.
Chris Field, Head of Care and Hospitality, Sirius Property Finance