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  • 612 pubs to benefit from investment, creating around 1,075 new jobs
  • 156 long-term closed pubs reopened in 2023 and 2024
  • Pubgoers eager to go out despite the cost-of-living crisis
  • Revamps enable pubs to cater for multiple occasions and maximise events

HEINEKEN UK is investing £39m in upgrading and reopening pubs in its Star Pubs’ estate in 2024 – demonstrating its confidence in the resilience of the great British local in the face of global uncertainty. The move will create an estimated 1,075 new jobs.

A quarter (612) of HEINEKEN UK’s 2,400 pubs are in line for improvement, with 94 of these set for makeovers costing on average £200,000. The investment will also cover works to reopen 62 long-term closed locals in 2024. By the end of the year, HEINEKEN UK will have reopened 156 such pubs since the start of 2023, reducing the number of closed pubs in its estate to pre-pandemic levels.

With working from home more commonplace and people looking to save on travel, major refurbishments will concentrate on transforming tired pubs in suburban areas into premium locals. The revamps are designed to broaden each pub’s use and appeal, giving people additional reasons to visit. Subtle zoning will signpost pubgoers to the area likely to suit them best, enabling different groups of customers to simultaneously enjoy a variety of activities – from watching sports to dining – without disturbing each other. Dividing screens and distinct changes to lighting, sound systems and furniture styles will help delineate the zones. The new designs will have a stylish classic feel, providing longevity. Reflecting customers’ increased expectations, the projects will be carried out to a high standard and will impact every part of the pubs, from the toilets to the gardens.

Other common changes will include overhauling cellars with state-of-the-art dispense equipment to ensure consistently perfect pints and repositioning tills to speed up service. Furthering progress against HEINEKEN UK’s ambition to be net zero across its entire value chain by 2040, substantial projects will feature energy efficiency measures, such as heating controls, insulation and low-energy lighting, that will typically cost £12,500 per pub and cut energy use by 15%.

Lawson Mountstevens, Star Pubs’ Managing Director, said: “People are looking for maximum value from visits to their local. They want great surroundings and food and drink as well as activities that give them an extra reason to go out, such as sports screenings and entertainment. Creating fantastic locals that can accommodate a range of occasions meets this need and helps pubs fulfil their role as vital third spaces where communities can come together.

“Pubs have proved their enduring appeal; after all the disruption of recent years, Star is on track to have the lowest number of closed pubs since 2019. It’s a tribute to the drive and entrepreneurship of licensees and the importance of continued investment. We’ve spent more than £200m upgrading and maintaining our pubs over the last five years, and we’ll continue to invest to keep them open and thriving. Time and again we see the value consumers place on having a good local and how important it is to communities. Well-invested pubs run by great licensees are here to stay, but like all locals, they need Government support to reduce the enormous tax burden they shoulder.”

Case studies of reopened pubs:

The Ashford Arms, Ashford-in-the-Water, Derbyshire. A Covid casualty, the Grade II listed inn closed in March 2020 but reopened four years later thanks to a joint £1.6m refurbishment by Star Pubs and Rob Hattersley of Derbyshire-based Longbow Venues. The funds have turned The Ashford Arms into a beautifully decorated premium country pub with a new snug, two bars, a 107-cover restaurant, nine boutique ensuite letting rooms and a stunning 30-seater alfresco area with a retractable roof. The scheme created 50 new jobs and is benefitting local suppliers whose produce the venue uses. Comments Rob: “We serve breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The Ashford Arms ticks all the boxes, whether people want a pint with friends, a celebratory meal with loved ones or accommodation when visiting the Peak District. Local residents have embraced the new look pub and are very happy it’s a lovely feature of the village again. Trade took off like a rocket when we opened. We’ve been fully booked for meals, room bookings are flooding in and sales are a third higher than expected. It’s been a massive venture and could never have been done without Star Pubs’ financial support.”

The Ship, Worsbrough, Barnsley. A £370k refurbishment reopened The Ship in February 2024 following a four-and-a-half year closure, creating 11 jobs. A local specialising in entertainment and sport, The Ship serves drinks only and has bar and lounge areas plus a games zone kitted out with pool, darts and screens showing Sky sports. It holds coffee mornings for senior citizens, care home residents and mother & toddler groups and has football, darts and pool teams. It also puts on charity fundraisers and provides meeting space for local groups. In the evenings, there are weekly quiz, bingo, karaoke and live music nights. Explains new licensee Rebecca Skelly: “The Ship needed a complete facelift to get customers back – a lick of paint wouldn’t have cut it. The smart new design has been key to converting residents into regulars. The Ship is proof of the need and demand for traditional locals. It’s part of the town’s history. Everyone comes here, from families with children to retirees – it’s a social hub, especially for the neighbourhood’s senior citizens, many of whom sat at home alone before The Ship opened again.”

The Coach & Horses, Carlisle. Closed for a year, The Coach & Horses had a poor reputation and few customers before its £300,000 transformation into a top-quality family and dog-friendly local serving freshly prepared food. The pub’s new direction has attracted neighbouring residents and made it a destination dining spot with sell-out Sunday lunches for people from across Carlisle. Says licensee Susan Graham: “People avoided the pub for years. Their chins hit the floor when they saw the change; they love the classy new look and warm, welcoming feel. We were mobbed when the pub opened – locals are delighted to have a place to go on their doorsteps. Food is nearly 50% of our trade but being able to come in for drinks or to watch sports is equally important to customers. The pub is a lifeline for some of our older regulars – it’s part of their routine where they can meet their friends. Our experience reflects Star’s research, which shows people are going out less but want better quality when they do, including a lovely environment. By adapting accordingly, The Coach & Horses is back on the map as the busy popular local it was in its heyday.”

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