About 1,300 jobs are set to be saved after Marston’s struck a deal to take on more than 150 Brains pubs in Wales.
The future of SA Brain & Co, Wales’s biggest brewer and hospitality business, had been thrown into doubt by the Covid-19 outbreak. The Cardiff-based group shut its pubs on December 4 after the Welsh government banned alcohol sales in pubs and restaurants and ordered them to close by 6pm to slow the transmission of Covid-19.
The deal comes as fears grow for restaurants, bars pubs and shops following the introduction of the latest restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19, dealing a financial blow to businesses during the crucial festive trading period. Almost 221,000 business premises, ranging from non-essential shops to pubs, cafes and hotels, will be shut from December 26 because of new lockdown measures imposed by the government, according to Altus Group, a property advisory group.
Using data compiled from Opentable, the online reservation service, the Office for National Statistics yesterday showed that seated diners in the UK dropped by about 65 per cent on December 19 compared with a year earlier.
John Rhys, chairman of Brains, said that the Marston’s deal safeguarded his company’s pubs and allowed his business to recapitalise its balance sheet. “We know and trust Marston’s to be excellent custodians of our pubs and we are confident that both our pubs and our pubs teams will thrive under their stewardship,” he said.
Marston’s will take on the leases of all 156 Brains pubs, for no consideration. The 1,300 staff who work at the sites, mainly in south and west Wales, will transfer to Marston’s and Brains will own the freeholds. Beers produced by Brains’ brewery will continue to be served in the pubs, which will remain under the Welsh brand.
Brains traces its roots to 1882, when Samuel Brain and his uncle Joseph acquired a Cardiff brewery. Mr Rhys, 62, is Samuel Brain’s great-grandson. Marston’s is one of Britain’s leading pubs companies. It employs about 14,000 staff and is led by Ralph Findlay, its chief executive. The deal adds to its estate of 1,368 pubs.
Mr Findlay, 59, said that the outlook for December, January and February seemed difficult. “But in the not too distant future, and I hope some time in the second-half of 2021, things do start to come back to normal,” he added.
Shares in Marston’s rose by 5¾p, or 8.6 per cent, to 74¾p.