Sale of the Bell Hotel

Laura k Pearce
👍 8

Fri 30 Sep, 17:34

I served at The Bell for many years, this place has been my nemesis but also my dearest friend. The fact that Greene king are selling makes me very happy and the thought of Charlbury owning it would be potentially amazing, I could never believe that this would be financially viable. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the postponed meeting due to holiday plans, however on my return was excited by the news that this group will be purchasing The Bell . I believe they will Work to its full potential and welcome the community. Politics are not of interest to me for this lovely place we once frequented . Let's just see it thrive and you know we can work with them unlike the greedy giants that came before .

Amanda Epps
👍 1

Fri 30 Sep, 15:05

And in the 70’s, Chris.

Tony Morgan
👍 1

Fri 30 Sep, 09:26

Thanks Chris and agreed

Chris Tatton
👍 10

Fri 30 Sep, 06:34

Tony, I attended the Town Council meeting as a member of the public, which discussed the Bell Hotel last Monday and can confirm that in light of the proposed investment by the Lionheart group, that the Town Council did not trigger the six month moratorium. Let’s hope that the Bell Hotel will be returned to its former glory, as was certainly the case in the late 80’s and 90’s, by the new owners. 

Tony Morgan
👍

Thu 29 Sep, 22:16

Totally agree with Steve Jones post Can the Town Council confirm they have not triggered the 6 month moratorium

Richard Fairhurst
(site admin)
👍

Thu 29 Sep, 21:35

Tony Gallagher also owns Sarsden House, Shaun Woodward’s old pad over towards Churchill. 

Christine Battersby
👍 1

Thu 29 Sep, 19:56

Thank you, Richard. Yes, the link you post does explain things.

The company website for the curious is here: https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/11114364

The "people" link is particularly interesting. Google to see why, but I guess it explains where the large amount of money to do up The Bell might be coming from. 

Steve Jones
👍

Thu 29 Sep, 19:41 (last edited on Thu 29 Sep, 19:46)

That clears up the mystery and explains why I couldn't find it. A bit of a coincidence that there's a Lionheart Group in Witney. I just assumed as a group name it might have had interests in many areas besides employment.

One thing that might be worth noting is that the new company is backed by Sir Tony Gallagher, who appears to primarily be a property developer. That may have implications for the Bell site. Tony Gallagher also hosted David Cameron's 50th birthday party...

Richard Fairhurst
(site admin)
👍 2

Thu 29 Sep, 18:47 (last edited on Thu 29 Sep, 18:48)

Christine, I think this explains it: https://www.propelinfonews.com/pi-Newsletter.php?datetime=2022-07-29%2008:00:00

Christine Battersby
👍

Thu 29 Sep, 18:39

Some confusion about the name of the company bidding for The Bell on the News page, surely.

Lionheart Group in Witney is an an employment company in Building and Construction. The Lionheart Pub Co. Ltd is in Pontefract and seems to have nothing at all with the named pubs.

Lionhearth is listed by Scott Macdonald in Churchill, but clicking on the link one is redirected to Fego which lists itself as owning pubs in Ascot, Banstead, Beaconsfield, Cobham, Gerrard’s Cross, Marlow and Sunningdale.

Both The Swan in Ascott and The Chequers in Churchill have websites which say they are owned by Our Country Creatures Group. Also The Double Red Duke in Clanfield. Website here: https://www.countrycreatures.com/

Rachel Ramsay
👍 4

Thu 29 Sep, 18:00

The Chequers and the Swan are gorgeous. I for one would warmly welcome the Bell being acquired by the owners of them!

Steve Jones
👍 5

Thu 29 Sep, 17:22 (last edited on Thu 29 Sep, 17:34)

In view of the news item regarding the intended purchase of the Bell Hotel by the Lionhearth Group, I hope that the town council has not triggered the 6-month moratorium on the sale of the property as an AVC. It seems to me that the prospect of the occupants of Charlbury stumping up the very large sum that would be required to purchase and renovate such a building is vanishingly small. This is not a matter of saving the last pub in a village, but a mid-sized hotel and restaurant which is going to have to market itself well outside the borders of Charlbury and into the tourist trade.

If the Bell is to be purchased, and I think that is a good thing, then I think it's in the best interest of the town that it progresses promptly without too much uncertainty or delay entering into the process. I've no doubt many will have questions about the nature of the new business, and it would be unrealistic to expect it to be a reincarnation of what was there before, but if it's done right it ought to do the town a lot of good.

I also have a bit of interest, as the secretary of the Street Fair, in maintaining good relationships with any new owners as access to the forefront of the property is a key ingredient, as is their goodwill which has, historically, been of mutual benefit to the Street Fair and to the hotel.

What I would welcome, and I suspect the rest of the Street Fair Committee would agree, is the prospect of fleshing out any future relationship between the town in general and the Street Fair in particular.

nb. should it be the Lionheart Group? I can find a company of that name in Witney, but not one called the Lionhearth Group. The latter conjures up images of large felines lounging in front of a log fire.

Amanda Epps
👍 2

Tue 20 Sep, 13:31

David, the details are in the News column.

David Cullen
👍 1

Tue 20 Sep, 10:19

Has a new date and time been agreed for this meeting? If the hard deadline for triggering the moratorium is the 27th, we are running short of time.

Gareth Epps
👍 7

Fri 9 Sep, 09:08 (last edited on Fri 9 Sep, 09:17)

James - as I’m chairing it, or rather was, it is clear to me.

It is likely to be rearranged for shortly after the end of the period of mourning.  The (absolute) deadline for the Town Council triggering the moratorium (or not) is 27 September.

James Norris
👍 3

Fri 9 Sep, 08:39

Wouldn’t assume that to be especially clear.

Gareth Epps
👍 3

Fri 9 Sep, 07:06

Clearly tonight’s meeting about the Bell will be postponed. 

Alex Michaels
👍

Wed 7 Sep, 23:04

You can't "put back" listed features, all that can be done is repair of that which is there. New owners in perpituity take on the responsibilities of any unapproved listed building alterations by all previous owners.

Steve Jones
👍

Wed 7 Sep, 20:37

I would think that any outstanding legal issues with regard to breaches of listed building status would be revealed as part of due diligence and the disclosures that Greene King would be required to make on any sale. It would be the responsibility of any solicitors acting on behalf of a prospective purchaser to make sure the relevant questions were asked and responded to.

As for whether GK would remedy them ahead of any sale, that would surely be a matter for the negotiation and whatever was agreed would surely be reflected in the price. That is the more that GK fixed, the higher the price and vice-versa.

I would expect any negotiations and the resulting contract to be somewhat complex...

Christine Battersby
👍

Wed 7 Sep, 20:19

Greene King was sold to Hong Kong property giant CK Asset Holdings (owned by Hong Kong's richest family) for £2.7 bn in August 2019. We know that in advance of the sale The Bell had been valued at £1 m. (valued by Christies in Ireland), and was listed in the prospectus of sale. The sale included more than just the pubs and hotel business, but was simply a property investment. And see Rod's post about pubs as property below.

Although all GK's shares are owned by CKA, Greene King keeps the name of their brand. I'll be interested to see if they want to sell The Bell as a going concern. But I expect any negotiations to be rather brutal.

Katie Russell
👍

Wed 7 Sep, 15:36

Was it the Bell where a lot of the listed features were removed without the correct approval? Will that be addressed and resolved by GK before the sale?

Rod Evans
👍 1

Wed 7 Sep, 13:22

Just to throw in my pennyworth before Friday:

The law of unintended consequences.  One result of Margaret Thatcher’s uncoupling of breweries and a great many of their pubs is that pub companies are now effectively property companies rather than beer outlets for the breweries, even if they use the old brewery names.  If GK now wish to sell the Bell as a going concern, I have little doubt they would already have considered the possibility of residential development for obvious reasons, even if the Bell itself remained as a pub/hotel.  So it’s unlikely any buyer – community or private – could realistically expect to subsidise or offset the purchase through that route.  But never say never…

There is a high degree of protection in planning terms for the pub itself through both the Local and Neighbourhood Plans (Policies E1 & E5 of the former, ECT2 of the latter for us nerds!).  That is in addition to the Asset of Community Value designation.  So a high hurdle on a change of use application, as with the Bull a few years ago.

 IMHO, I see no reason why a properly run inn (pub with rooms) should not prosper in Charlbury – but how much dosh would be needed to put it into good order after being (cynically?) unoccupied for so long is another matter.

Chris Wastie
👍 5

Sun 4 Sep, 11:39

i dred the think if mr Clarkson got the bell ,Charlbury would be grid locked,when i drive by his place nr chadlington & see at least seventy

people waiting to enter his little shed to buy a coke for £10

chris Wastie

Gareth Epps
👍 3

Fri 2 Sep, 22:39

The Town Council is organising a public meeting next Friday evening about the Bell.

Chris Tatton
👍 1

Fri 2 Sep, 19:28

I think James could be spot on here. To save the Bell, may be allow one or two houses to be built, there is a lot of land behind. I hate the idea, but then commercial reality kicks in. I was a District Councillor and on planning committee back in the day, when they tried to close the  Chequers in Churchill and develop it totally for  housing. Over my dead body I thought, as fortunately did other members of the planning committee . The outcome some housing, but also the maintenance of a successful and quality pub and restaurant.  It is still a quality establishment to this day. 

Hans Eriksson
👍 1

Fri 2 Sep, 19:12

I couldn't find any references to a sale of the Swan Ascot, Chequers in Churchill and the Double Red Duke in Clanfield. They are - or were?, owned by Country Creatures https://www.countrycreatures.com/. There is no mention of a sale on their website.

You can look them up on the HMRC company register and find a team of two. Despite rumours of Clarkson, the owner of Sarsden house and various Freuds as owners. This is baffling.

James Norris
👍 2

Fri 2 Sep, 17:43

Think the suggestion of using some of the land for development to offset the cost of getting it back in shape isn't the worst. Helps address some of the housing shortfall issue, while maintaining a much cherished community asset.


Charlie’s wish for it to be under £5 a pint feels hopeful at best. Whoever sinks the funds i to restoring it will be looking for a return.

Simon J Harley
👍

Fri 2 Sep, 14:56

I have heard that it will cost around £500k to get it up and running as a pub but ideally needs about 1.5 million spending on it to get the building sorted properly.  Goodness knows what Greene King want for the building (guessing 1.5 million but who knows) so it will be a huge investment for someone and will be a long time before any profit is made.

Liz Leffman
👍 1

Fri 2 Sep, 14:47 (last edited on Fri 2 Sep, 14:48)

Surprised to hear that the Swan has been sold - it is (was) owned by a consortium who also own the Chequers in Churchill and the Double Red Duke in Clanfield.

Matt Bullock
👍 4

Fri 2 Sep, 14:43

Whilst it would be nice to see The Bell in community ownership, the cost of buying and refurbishing it would be huge and potentially prohibitive. I think the Stonesfield campaign raised around £450k (they have a fundraising Beer Festival on 1 October btw) - the figure for the Bell could need to be four or five times that. 

The ACV will protect it for a while but in the current economic climate finding a hotel buyer may be tough. Hopefully I'm wrong and someone will take it on, doing as Charlie says - good honest food, drink and accommodation rather than high-end, Michelin-starred boutique variety.

Liz Reason
👍

Fri 2 Sep, 12:51

FYI The Swan at Ascott has also been sold - don't know to whom

Gareth Epps
👍 3

Thu 1 Sep, 21:26

Some food for thought, not necessarily reflecting my views but to inform the debate:

1.  Greene King could under the terms of the Localism Act put the Bell up for sale as a going concern without any moratorium being triggered.  They have chosen not to do that.

2. Hotel accommodation is in very short supply here.  There are planning protection policies that encourage and seek to retain tourism facilities.

3. The Bell is in need of refurbishment.

4.  Despite rumours going around town for months that it has already been sold, there is no identified buyer.

5.  Charlie’s comment about seeking inspiration from the White Horse campaigners in Stonesfield is spot on.  (Interest declared: I have a share). I’ll try and invite a representative to the meeting.

Miles Walkden
👍 3

Thu 1 Sep, 18:24

I’m not so sure about a comunity owned pub/restaurant/hotel. Apart from the logistics and costs of such a big operation, we already have ‘comunity’ pubs to support. I think we need to keep an eye on potential change of use and hope for someone who wants to take on the challenge. 

Christine Battersby
👍 1

Thu 1 Sep, 16:57

Thanks, Matt. 

The Cotswold Brewing Co has now been renamed the Hawkstone Brewery (after the standing stone located on JC's land), and Jeremy Clarkson is thoroughly involved as a partner: https://www.staycotswold.com/hawkstone-lager-jeremy-clarkson-beer/

JC visited the brewery/pub back in November, so he seems to know more about it than he pretends. Even so, it looks as if Bourton on the Water is where JC's "accidentally bought" pub is located.

Charlie M
👍 1

Thu 1 Sep, 16:51

As I said in a previous post on this subject, I would hate to see The Bell turned into one of those "£5-6 a pint" type places like the one in the locality. In my view, The Bell's niche in the Charlbury market is exactly as it was before: a competitively-priced restaurant, coupled with competitively-priced accommodation. Its function as a pub is, I would suggest, a little "secondary" to this. 

In reference to how we as a community would proceed with buying the pub, we could do a lot worse than look for advice to those who are trying to preserve The White Horse, Stonesfield as a local pub. I subscribed to that; I shall most certainly subscribe to this. Michele, I would think that a share scheme is the way to go. Personally I do not see that plans for a bistro are relevant.

Matt Bullock
👍 1

Thu 1 Sep, 15:51

Jeremy Charles Robert Clarkson bought a share in the Cotswold Brewing Co in January. Not sure The Bell would be the ideal place for Cotswold to own.. they have a Tap Room at the brewery known as the Hawkstone Arms, which may be "his pub".

Christine Battersby
👍 1

Thu 1 Sep, 15:29

It's unlikely to have been bought by Clarkson, given the the Express (today) reports him as saying " I've accidentally bought a pub I've got to go look at in a minute because I've bought a brewery."

If he had bought Greene King he would have bought more than one pub. I think he would also know where it is and also other things about it. And he claims ignorance about any of those details.

Michael Cooper
👍

Thu 1 Sep, 15:08

Is this the new owner?

First there was Clarkson’s Farm, now prepared for the Clarkson Arms. Yesterday, Grand Tour presenter Jeremy Clarkson revealed his new venture: running a pub. “I’ve bought one today,” he told The Londoner.

His purchase came just hours after the news that 70 per cent of pubs could shut their doors this winter due to high energy bills.

But before he can start pulling pints behind the bar, Clarkson will first need to find the premises. “I don’t know the name or where it is,”

Simon J Harley
👍 7

Thu 1 Sep, 14:22

I had understood that Greene King had found buyers for the pub.  Surely they have just informed the council because they are legally bound to do so?  If Charlbury folk start throwing spanner’s in the works of a sale that’s going through, the new buyers might then pull out and we are then back to square one?  Does anyone know if the buyers that were rumoured have pulled out?

Steve Jones
👍 5

Thu 1 Sep, 13:30 (last edited on Thu 1 Sep, 13:37)

The Bell is primarily a hotel, and not a community pub (we have three of those plus the sports club). I do not think it is viable as a pub alone, or even a pub plus eating establishment. It surely has to offer accommodation unless (dare I mention it), some of the land at the back was redeveloped for housing (not the green space part, but the car park and annexe at the back). 

If it was to be a community owned resource (presumably by subscription to buy shares), then that's a very large investment and some sort of business plan would have to be put together for how it might operate as a going concern. What's more, there is clearly a lot of capital needed to fix the place up first.

Quite a job for somebody to do and requires somebody (or some people) with a lot of hard-headed business sense.

I wonder what the market value of the property will be and on what basis. As a going concern, then that's one thing, but as a property with development opportunities, maybe quite another.

Personally I think that having a successful hotel of that size is highly desirable for the future of the town, but this is quite a task. I also think that, in any enthusiastic outburst, we ought to be aware that we should be careful not to undermine the financial viability of other businesses in town, which is primarily the pubs of course, but also consider the bistro which is planned for the Post Office site.

michele marietta
👍 4

Thu 1 Sep, 13:02

Oh boy! Now is the time for us all to band together and save The Bell! What can we do? Shares? Community-run pub? Let's DO THIS!

Chris Tatton
👍 3

Thu 1 Sep, 12:06

Big thanks to Gareth Epps for informing Charlbury residents that the Bell Hotel is to be sold by Green King and that a public meeting is planned to discuss the fate of this important community asset. 

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