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Pals idea extended

PUBLISHED: 19:15 07 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:18 03 March 2010

THE Pals late-licensed bar concept, pioneered in Ipswich and Croydon, has proved such a success that it is to be expanded across the country, parent company Regent Inns has announced.

THE Pals late-licensed bar concept, pioneered in Ipswich and Croydon, has proved such a success that it is to be expanded across the country, parent company Regent Inns has announced.

Regent is also to open more of its Australian-themed Walkabout bars and add to its network of Bar Risa/Jongleurs venues.

To help pay for the expansion of the three brands, however, London-based Regent is to sell off 13 of its unbranded properties for a total of £8.1 million.

They are to be acquired by Broken Foot Inns for an initial cash sum of £5.6 million plus deferred sums of £1 million and £1.5 million payable 12 months and 18 months respectively following completion, which is due by May 31.

Details of the properties involved are not being disclosed ahead of completion. However, among the properties owned by Regent Inns outside its three main brands are the Great White Horse Hotel in Ipswich and Spoofers Bar in Colchester.

The announcement came as Regent unveiled figures showing a 5.6 per cent increase in underlying profits to £7.7 million during the six months to December 29, on turnover up 20.1pc to £59.3 million.

Its 27 Walkabout bars achieved 13.3pc like-for-like sales growth – boosted by England's football World Cup qualifiers – and Regent now plans to expand the chain to 50 outlets by the end of next year.

Regent also hopes to increase its portfolio of Bar Risa/Jongleurs venues from 14 to 20 by 2003.

And the two Pals venues, which were acquired by Regent last year, are now to form the basis for a third brand, with up to five new outlets planned in the short term including one in Southend-on-Sea.

Overall, Regent said that trading had picked up since the autumn when the September 11 terrorist attacks depressed bookings of pre-planned party events.

Marketing and promotional campaigns lifted the performance over the Christmas period, with weekly takings at one venue in Watford breaking a Regent record at more than £150,000.

However, the company said like-for-like sales from its unbranded had fallen by 4.7pc due to the reduced number of tourists visiting to its central London pubs, three of which are understood to be among those being sold.

And bottom-line pre-tax profits came in at £4.8 million, down from £7.2 million last time, after exceptional costs of £2.7 million linked to the reshaping of the business are included.

Chairman Peter Savage said the company was not immune to the potential effects of the economic decline but remained hopeful over prospects.

He added: "The quality of both the group's brands and its property pipeline put Regent in a strong position to benefit from continued growth in its market place."

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