Bar bosses to up sticks

THE end of an era dawned yesterday as a company inextricably linked to Newcastle’s reputation as a party city announced it was moving its headquarters out of the North East.

THE end of an era dawned yesterday as a company inextricably linked to Newcastle’s reputation as a party city announced it was moving its headquarters out of the North East.

Premium Bars & Restaurants, which runs more than 50 venues in the UK and 16 in the North East including the Blu Bambu and Sea nightclubs in Newcastle, will move from its offices on Mosley Street, Newcastle, to Manchester later this year in order to build up its Living Room brand.

The firm, which is listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), added 13 Living Room restaurants to its portfolio last year after buying Manchester-based Living Ventures Limited and has decided to move 25 of its 30 head office staff to the city in order to be closer to its North West offices.

Such a decision is typical of the current climate in the pub industry, with firms radically changing their business models in order to escape the effects of the smoking ban and the credit crunch. Although the move will lead to five redundancies, the company, once known as Ultimate Leisure and set up 11 years ago by ex-chief executive Bob Senior, has said that it remains committed to the North East and, as well as retaining an office in the region, has earmarked Sunderland, Durham and Middlesbrough for new Living Room restaurants.

Mark Jones, the firm’s executive chairman, said: “Everyone knows that we have changed the make up of the company considerably, through the sale of some of our sites and through our restaurant acquisitions.

“We have thought long and hard about the relocation and decided that it was the right move as we change our focus to becoming a national premium bar and restaurant operator.

“Having said that, we are still committed to the North East and are undergoing a number of developments in the region.”

The 11-year old company , which sold three premises in Newcastle last year, saw its revenues jump by 95% to £35.4m in the six months to December 31, 2007 as a result of its recent shakeup.

However, its planned relocation was taken badly by the local business community, which has seen a number of listed companies leave the region in recent years.

Vinay Bedi, divisional director of stock broker Brewin Dolphin in Newcastle, said: “It’s a great shame that we have lost another North East listed company. You can see why they’ve done this but it’s a major blow to the North East’s business community.”

Brief history

1997: Ultimate Leisure starts trading from five bars in the centre of Newcastle

1999: Raises £6m by floating on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM)

Buys four bars in Newcastle and three in Sunderland

2000: Buys Sea nightclub

2001: First expansion out of the North East - Buys venues in Nottingham and Rotherham

2002: Opens Blu Bambu in Newcastle

2003: Raises £20m from placing shares

2005: Pre-tax loss of £95,000 leads to the resignation of chief executive and founder Bob Senior

Mark Jones brought in as new chief exec

2007: Acquires The Living Room brand

2008: Changes its name to Premium Bars & Restaurants

Announces its relocation to Manchester

Leisure empire

Premium Bars & Restaurants owns 16 sites in the North East:

Bars/Clubs/Retaurants

Newcastle - The Living Room, Attic, Blu Bambu, Sea, Chase, City Vaults, Luckies, Rewind, The Lodge

Sunderland - Blu Bambu, Chase

Durham - Klute, Chase

North Tyneside - Coast Bar

Hotels

Newcastle - Waterside Hotel - operates Jimmyz Bar

North Tyneside - Rex Hotel (Whitley Bay) - operates Jimmyz and Deep bars

Businesses sold

2008: South Tyneside - Chase (under offer)

2007: Newcastle - Bar M to Tup Tup Palace, Kiss bar to Ladhar Leisure, Yell bar to Ladhar Leisure

2006: South Tyneside - Coyote Wild nightclub to Actual Leisure

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