Amber Taverns ramps up expansion plans with £27.5m funding deal

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Amber taverns, Public house, Tavern

James Baer (centre-left) and Clive Preston (centre-right) are confident that Amber Taverns' wet-led model can be expanded
James Baer (centre-left) and Clive Preston (centre-right) are confident that Amber Taverns' wet-led model can be expanded
Amber Taverns, the Lancashire-based community pub operator, is set to acquire around 30 more sites over the next three years after agreeing a major funding deal with Lloyds Bank.

The 86-strong group has increased its debt facility by £5m to £27.5m, allowing it to grow its portfolio to around 120 wet-led pubs across Northern England, the Midlands and North Wales.

Chairman Clive Preston said: “The continuing success of our business is proof that the traditional ‘wet-led’ pub is alive and well,​and quality venues in a good location and a competitive offer will thrive.

“Our customers want to enjoy great pubs in their local community that offer value for money and which also screen the best sporting events and we are delivering exactly that.

“The guidance and support we have received from Lloyd’s Bank has been invaluable in achieving the ambitious expansion plan we have pursued over the past three years and the Liverpool team has shown exceptional knowledge of the sector and our needs as a business.”

Quality and potential

In June of this year, Amber Taverns’ managing director James Baer told BigHospitality he believed the company’s wet-led model could also work in areas in the south of the country.

After announcing a 'record' set of annual financial results for the year,​ ​Baer said: “We don't aspire to be as big as JD Wetherspoon but we still think there is plenty of growth potential.

"We are keen to expand our geography but there are still plenty of towns in the North of England we don't trade in. It is always the quality and potential of the site that is key. 

“We think it’s unlikely that the model would work in central London due to the property prices but we do think there are large conurbations in other parts of the country where in time the model could sit quite happily and trade well. 

“As we grow it is important that we maintain the culture and the local approach to running pubs for local people.”

Amber Taverns completed a successful management buyout in 2010, supported by LGV Capital. The company was recently named the UK’s Best Community Pub Operator at the 2013 Publican Awards.

On-going support

Speaking of today’s funding deal, Ashley Suter, the relationship director for Merseyside, West Lancashire & North Wales at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “We have supported Amber Taverns since the company was established in 2005, and it has been rewarding to see how far the company has come in that time.

“The company operates in an extremely competitive sector, but by staying true to its ethos of delivering quality traditional pubs that are loved by local communities has allowed it to flourish.

“Its success in recent years has created a significant number of jobs and been a real boost to the economic recovery, and we are proud to be lending our on-going support to this.

“We are on the lookout for other ambitious mid-sized companies like Amber Taverns which we can help to achieve their business development goals.”

How to run a successful wet-led pub - James Baer's top tips: 

  • Be prepared to invest ​– “We are up against supermarket pricing so why are people going to go to a pub that isn't better than their front room?”
  • Work from the bottom up rather than from the top down ​- “If you are operating more than one site, treat each pub as a small business in a local market.”
  • Enable individual pub managers to drive footfall​ – “One of our pubs in Leyland, Lancashire, and the person in charge chose to do a bingo night on a Tuesday for the residents of a local nursing home. That doesn't generate a terrific amount of business but it is a quiet time and it embeds the pub in the community.”

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