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News > Business

Former BII Licensee of the Year: 'Now is the perfect time to buy pubs'

By Peter Ruddick , 24-Aug-2012
Last updated on 24-Aug-2012 at 17:05 GMT

Darran Lingley, the 2011 winner of the BII Licensee of the Year competition, has acquired his second pub and revealed to BigHospitality he is hoping to make his third purchase before the end of the year.

Lingley waited ten years between opening the Five Bells in Colne Engaine, Essex, and doubling up his estate with the 14th century Lion pub in nearby Earls Colne. However he said he believed it was now a 'buyer’s market' with lots of pubs available with 'extreme value to purchase'.

The award-winning publican explained there were a number of options for forthcoming acquisitions as he works his way towards establishing an area-wide pub company. However he refused to be drawn on locations explaining every time he did so other people made offers on the venues thinking he must be on the right track.

Community

"Virtually every pub seems to be for sale in our area," Lingley said. "We are taking a look at them and seeing if they fit into our criteria."

The licensee admitted many of the venues up for sale required high levels of investment and significant refurbs. However he said small operators had a great opportunity to succeed in places where major pubcos had failed because the 'big boys' hadn't understood the local market or were too tied to a brand.

"We are looking at pubs where the community can come back and embrace it. We are not creating standalone, luxury, middle of the country eateries. We are trying to build strength with old-fashioned drinking community pubs, pool team pubs and community eateries."

Pub academy

The husband-and-wife team of Darran and his partner Caroline have just completed the acquisition of their second freehold which was marketed with an asking price of £395k. 

The most-recent purchase was made possible as a result of financial backing and equity investment from a number of sources after the pair failed to secure any lending facilities from the banks. However Lingley explained he had actively sought to make sure the backers were not experts from the hospitality or pub industries.

"They give us an ‘out of the box’ view. If you listened to people in the industry at the moment you wouldn’t be buying pubs," he argued. 

Culture

After winning the British Institute of Innkeepers (BII) 2011 Licensee of the Year prize and several other awards before and since, Lingley has gained a good reputation in the industry for running strong community pubs.

The publican revealed the secret to his success was not making the mistake of throwing money at a pub but failing to transform the people, the culture and therefore the pub business.

"We know what we have created in the Five Bells is an academy for pubs. We have a head office here with proper training, marketing and accounts and any new sites have got to come through here to get embedded with the ethos and the culture."

"Even if you have spent £250k refurbishing a pub, if you put the same people back in there the culture doesn’t change and in theory the pub will never change," he concluded.

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