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Buying a Public House in the UK

Zulu_w

Old-Salt
We currently live and work overseas, but like all things this has to come to an end. We have been fortunate enough to save a fair bit during this time and I am thinking of what I might like to do next. Initially I had thought to buy a place with some land and start up a number of activities that would help to pay the bills. Don't need a fortune but tickover would be nice. This seems to involve a great deal of time and effort so far as planning authority etc is involved.

Moving on and in light of current events my thoughts turned to buying up a suitable public house. Criteria would be; in the country, with accomodation for a family, with a suitable sized footprint of land to diversify. Not seeking a busy town pub or having to work too hard. Probably look to just opening Thursday through to Sunday.

Idea is to have somewhere nice to live that can make sufficient income to cover operational and living costs. Capital would be paid up front so no borrowing or mortgages to consider and not looking to make a ferrari out of it.

These things always sound simple on paper so I put it to the collective wisdom on here. Good idea, bad idea ludicrous?

Pandemic aside I am hopeful that at some stage we will be able to get back to the simple joy of going out for a pint somewhwre civilised with a bit of food thrown in.
 
D

Deleted 164106

Guest
We currently live and work overseas, but like all things this has to come to an end. We have been fortunate enough to save a fair bit during this time and I am thinking of what I might like to do next. Initially I had thought to buy a place with some land and start up a number of activities that would help to pay the bills. Don't need a fortune but tickover would be nice. This seems to involve a great deal of time and effort so far as planning authority etc is involved.

Moving on and in light of current events my thoughts turned to buying up a suitable public house. Criteria would be; in the country, with accomodation for a family, with a suitable sized footprint of land to diversify. Not seeking a busy town pub or having to work too hard. Probably look to just opening Thursday through to Sunday.

Idea is to have somewhere nice to live that can make sufficient income to cover operational and living costs. Capital would be paid up front so no borrowing or mortgages to consider and not looking to make a ferrari out of it.

These things always sound simple on paper so I put it to the collective wisdom on here. Good idea, bad idea ludicrous?

Pandemic aside I am hopeful that at some stage we will be able to get back to the simple joy of going out for a pint somewhwre civilised with a bit of food thrown in.
Anyone looking to open a pub is a good bloke in my eyes!

It's hard work, from what I understand. I'm sure there are publican forums that would be able to give a much broader range of views / opinions than here.
 
Owning a pub used to be a license to print money. That went out of the window probably a dozen years ago or even further back than that. Pubs have been closing in their droves for a long time now.

So ploughing your money into a pub could well be a very risky strategy leaving you very poor unless you manage to buy the right place.

There are of course many pubs that still do turn a good profit but you need to identify one that will do so and give you the kind of lifestyle that you want to go with it.

@Ravers runs a successful pub as part of his family business. He might be able to give you some good pointers. Good luck.
 

Joshua Slocum

LE
Book Reviewer
Most of the pubs are run by the big breweries or as franchises
a friend who is a builder , runs a boozer with his missus, been running it for about 18 years now
if he didnt run a building firm they would not survive
their pub does well because its in a nice little village, only one other boozer in the village
opposite the village green and village hall, but they do a lot of charity work and all the local vintage bike lot and the bike clubs meet there
they have a garden out back for event and do the catering, thats where they make their money

problem is the building is owned by the brewery, its ancient, when they asked for some refurbishment work at the front, the brewery sent the cheapest clown they could get hold off, from the North of England ( no work up there so lower wages)
he plainly had not got a clue, and to cap it all the brewery then wanted to raise the rent to cover the piss poor work
he gets his own lads to maintain at his own expense as its cheaper than the brewery raising the rent each time
also you are tied in to them for snacks and food etc and they make a mark up
lots of pubs are closing for this reason.
you would have to buy a pub, get a full building survey, arrange a supplier of beer and spirits from a small brewery, who you will then find out are owned by a big brewery

Its a recipe for losing money unless you have years of experience in the game and know all the scams going, and can spot the liars trying to stitch you up
The breweries hate ceding control , and will buy out any small brewery or supplier to keep control and high prices
how about small cafe restaurant, with passing trade, river or walkers or heritage railway
 

Whining Civvy

War Hero
I fully agree with JS for the reasons given - it's a recipe for losing money and best kept in the romantic ideas I wish I'd done bucket.
 

Chef

LE
If you're going to do it as an independent trader it's probably worth looking at. In a tied house good luck with that. The brewer tend not to be ideal employers.

Also what most people see of a pub is mine host having what looks like a permanent party in his house. Not so. The nice bloke giving you the 'Hail fellow well met' routine has to be nice to you even if he's got a lousy cold, gone to bed at 03:00 after breaking up a minor brawl and cleaning up a pebble dashed cubicle and unblocked a vomit filled sink before breakfast, got smartened up after 4 hours sleep. Oh and laugh at your joke, that's been told to him several times already today, as if you're the new Ronnie Barker.

It is a 24/7 job and if you live in, for which you'll be charged rent (probably) you'll always be on the job, fnarr fnarr and on call.

It's a vocation, if you enjoy that lifestyle then the pay is a perk.

If you're in it for the money then the wages will never be high enough.
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
As @rgjbloke says above, we have two pubs and both are very successful.

A few key pointers:

Location location location. Village pubs are great, but only if it’s in a village with a fair bit of footfall. You can’t just rely on your locals to keep things ticking over. It needs to be a “destination village” where people will come for walks etc. Think National Parks etc. Ours are both nestled right on the edge of the Lake District, so plenty of visitors.

Don’t even think about leasing off a brewery or getting a tied place. It’s a complete non starter. Needs to be freehold.

Accommodation has the biggest profit margins by a long way. The more rooms (as long as you can manage them) the better. Our smaller pub has 6 rooms, bigger one has 11. They’re more like small hotels. Without the income from the rooms, we’d struggle.

Food and drink needs to be very good. Average doesn’t cut it in this game and is a very quick way to bad trip advisor reviews. You’ll need a chef (ideally two) who can manage this.

The Thursday to Sunday idea is nice, but in practice you’re cutting out a huge portion of your business. Don’t underestimate the footfall from retirees who have nothing to do but sit in the pub everyday from 3 til close. If you’re only open 3 days a week they’ll quickly find somewhere else to go. Likewise walkers, holiday makers etc. Word will quickly spread that you’re closed all the time. People are idiots, they won’t check your opening times and if people start turning up and the door is closed, they just won’t come back. We have a cafe that suffers from this. It’s closed most Saturdays due to weddings taking place there.

For the same reason you can’t just close shop for a couple of weeks when you want to go on holiday. Unless someone else is managing it for you, you’re tied to the place forever.

Events are a great money spinner. Think beer tent at the village show, BBQs in the summer. One of our local pubs puts on a beer festival every year that is a big portion of their income. It’s a lot of work but worth doing.

The other side of the coin.....

Another local pub to us is pretty nice. Husband and wife team who live there and run the place. He does the bar, she cooks. It’s leased off a local farming family for a peppercorn rent. They’d rather have a nice pub in the village than turn a profit. It benefits them in other ways as they own a load of rental properties there. Nice pub equals more rent.

Anyway, these people put their heart and soul into this place, it’s the hub of the village, everyone drinks there and a lot of people eat there. The food is good and the landlord keeps a fine cellar.

But.....

It has no rooms and the village is in the middle of nowhere. It gets zero tourist footfall. The place just ticks over on a few alcoholic farmers and locals who basically live there.

They are dirt poor. I’ve had some serious heart to heart discussions with the landlord there and they are really struggling. It’s a hand to mouth existence, living on a very tight edge. They are both pulling substantially less than minimum wage and working every hour that god sends.

Good luck with whatever you do, but tread carefully. PM me if you have anymore questions.
 

Dark_Nit

LE
Book Reviewer
Don't. Just don't.
Seriously.
Pubs are shutting all over the UK. Breweries are b'stards and very much a closed shop.
Indie breweries are ok, but you will still need to source soft drinks etc -- which are all from big brewing organisations.
Big brewing companies will want to tie you down and will charge over the odds unless they tie you to a contract.
Then you will need to source food, crisps & snacks etc. hence cash & carry if you have one handy.
Council hygiene inspections and you will need to train staff.
CV19 will also be the death of many more pubs as business won't get back to normal until Christmas.

You may as well set fire to bundles of £20s to keep warm
 
We currently live and work overseas, but like all things this has to come to an end. We have been fortunate enough to save a fair bit during this time and I am thinking of what I might like to do next. Initially I had thought to buy a place with some land and start up a number of activities that would help to pay the bills. Don't need a fortune but tickover would be nice. This seems to involve a great deal of time and effort so far as planning authority etc is involved.

Moving on and in light of current events my thoughts turned to buying up a suitable public house. Criteria would be; in the country, with accomodation for a family, with a suitable sized footprint of land to diversify. Not seeking a busy town pub or having to work too hard. Probably look to just opening Thursday through to Sunday.

Idea is to have somewhere nice to live that can make sufficient income to cover operational and living costs. Capital would be paid up front so no borrowing or mortgages to consider and not looking to make a ferrari out of it.

These things always sound simple on paper so I put it to the collective wisdom on here. Good idea, bad idea ludicrous?

Pandemic aside I am hopeful that at some stage we will be able to get back to the simple joy of going out for a pint somewhwre civilised with a bit of food thrown in.

As you may know, the public house industry has been dying for 20 years now and is virtually gone.

It could be a high risk high reward option but you could very easily loose everything.

Most pubs are beholden to the breweries.

I admire your thinking but i dont think this is a good idea, gold mining would be less risky.
 

Dark_Nit

LE
Book Reviewer
Our local has recently changed hands. It has always been a decent local village pub with a steady base trade of locals and pub grub. The new landlord has imported a chef from London allegedly. They also have "great plans" to alter the decor and put in a "traditional" copper top bar etc.

Basically they're going to change it to some London pikey's idea of a traditional village pub.

Turns out that the landlord is also an arrogant tw4t and has p!ssed off a couple of locals with his flash BMW bling mobile.

As we're on lockdown he has a temporary rent holiday but I can't see him turning any money until after Christmas.

Still, with a bit of luck the miserable cvnt will go bust.

The other tip being, of course, not to p!ss off you potential customers. :D
 

Ned_Seagoon

War Hero
Lots of cracking advice here. Heed it. My cousin had the lease on 2 pubs for a good few years, one of them in a location that “guaranteed” a good income. He put his heart and soul into them and just about got by. Good staff were his greatest asset and bad staff his worst nightmare. More than once, when he took time away for a much needed break leaving each of his pubs in “safe” hands, he returned to problems. In the end, he did it all himself and ran himself into the ground. He had decided on a change of direction late last year since when, Covid has completely buggered his plans. Go in with your eyes open and find a good (bluntly honest) mentor.
 

Chef

LE
As @vvaannmmaann observes there are lots of pubs for sale. There are always lots of pubs for sale, there is a reason for this and it isn't that the sellers have grown tired of counting their profits.

A friend of mine took over a pub, turned it around from 'a pint, a fight and the pharmaceutical of your choice' to a popular local venue. As they increased the turnover by more than the brewery predicted they were given a 50%+ rent increase by way of a thank you. They are still working below minimum wage and have a fair wedge tie in with the brewery as @Ravers says independent or don't bother.

Also pubs are still closing at an alarming rate the local high street used to have nine pubs there are two left and one of them was looking shaky even before the lockdown.

You don't say what you do at the moment but if it isn't in the hospitality trade be prepared for a very steep learning curve indeed.
 

Chef

LE
Is there a risk associated with the underworld when taking over a pub? Protection business, drugs pushing etc

Depends on the area and the pub's reputation. These can change quite quickly. Down is faster and up harder.

There is a pub in Hampstead called The Sir Richard Steele at one time if you could get to the bar unaided you were fit to be served.

It's now by all accounts a rather more up market gastro pub but it took a long time to get there.
 

ancienturion

LE
Book Reviewer
Owning a pub used to be a license to print money.

That only holds true for certain pubs. Generally, rural (village) pubs were all tenant, very few were freehouse and profit margins were very small indeed to the point where a second job was often necessary.
 

Yokel

LE
The traditional pub has been largely killed by the corporates.

If you want a Gold mine, try to get hold of a petrol station a few miles from the next one. You would make far more from sales of food, drink, coal, and so on than you will for the fuel. Drivers will grab sandwiches and pasties, some antifreeze, and a coffee. Locals will pop in for odd and ends and coal and logs.

Or a fish and chip shop in an area with lots of people. Or sell something to foreign students. A few years ago I was looking into setting up a business and took a few classes. It was in a city with a university and one of the group commented on the number of Chinese students with disposable income to burn.

Apart possibly from the petrol station, any business will need a unique selling point. A pub with a bunk house and a campsite perhaps?

Caveat: I have never run a business. Phil's talks made me think that doing so without a killer plan would be very unwise.
 

Ravers

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
There is a pub in Hampstead called The Sir Richard Steele at one time if you could get to the bar unaided you were fit to be served.

Hampstead, it’s virtually Camden Town man.

The Steeles used to be a big celeb hangout with the likes of Amy Wino, Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Jude Law, Sadie Frost and Liam Gallagher using it as their local.

Truth be told it was never that good but everyone drank there to be seen with the celebs.
 
As @rgjbloke and @Ravers have said, beware. A good pub in the right location can still turn a hefty profit but it's not a business for beginners and there's nothing wrong with working in the trade for a couple of years to get an idea.

My mate's been trying to flog his pub for over a year, it's got good turnover and profit, nobody's interested that much other than chancers. Mind you, his figures will have taken a big hit on St Pat's so you have to keep that kind of thing in mind.

I've got other friends who have gotten out of the game and wouldn't consider going back to it.
 

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