16 May 2024

Heineken to spend nearly USD 50 million on UK pubs

United Kingdom | Dutch brewer Heineken seeks to transform its tired pubs across the UK. The firm is spending GBP 39 million (USD 49 million) to reopen 62 pubs that were closed in recent years and refurbish some 600 sites, the BBC reported on 6 May.

Heineken said the cash injection into its Star Pubs & Bars chain will create more than 1,000 new jobs. Star Pubs & Bars, one of the largest pub companies in the UK, currently operates some 2 400 pubs, down from 2 700 pubs in 2019.

The UK pub industry has been hard hit by closures, both during the covid pandemic and afterwards as cost-of-living pressures weighed on consumer spending. Between 2021 and 2023, pubs have shut at a rate of 500 a year, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA). The number of pubs has fallen from 47 200 in 2019, before covid, to 45 350 in 2023, data from the BBPA show. However, pub numbers have been declining for some time. In 2013, there were 52 500 in operation which is 7 150 more than 2023.

Hibernating pubs will be reopened

Heineken’s major refurbishments will concentrate on transforming pubs in suburban areas into “premium locals”. With more people working from home, “the revamps are designed to broaden each pub's use and appeal, giving people additional reasons to visit,” Heineken said.

The company said that by the end of this year, its Star Pubs unit will have reopened 156 pubs since the start of 2023, “reducing the number of closed pubs in its estate to pre-pandemic levels”.

The beer writer Roger Protz called the investment “good news”. But he also highlighted that Heineken “has persisted in forcing its tenants to sell unreasonable levels of Heineken beers to its commercial benefit and fined them for breaching the Pub Code.” He asked: “Will tenants have more free-of-tie opportunities in the ‘refreshed’ pubs or will we see more Heineken lager and Bulmer’s cider?”

Heineken, which leases out most of its pubs, has spent more than GBP 200 million (USD 250 million) maintaining them over the past five years and plans to continue investing at a similar level.

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