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Heineken to refresh hundreds of UK pubs and bring others back to life

Bottles of Heineken beer are photographed in Washington, Friday, March 30, 2018. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)
Bottles of Heineken beer are photographed in Washington, Friday, March 30, 2018. (AP Photo/J. David Ake) Copyright J. David Ake/Copyright 2018 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright J. David Ake/Copyright 2018 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Indrabati Lahiri
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The move comes as pressures caused by the cost of living crisis in the UK have eased and more people are finding their way back to the pub.

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The brewing giant, Heineken, has announced that it plans to reopen about 62 of its Star Pubs and Bars arm which had been closed in the last few years. It's also planning a major refurbishment programme involving hundreds more of its venues. 

The total cost of the renovation project is expected to be around £39 million (€45.5 million) and will involve work on 612 pubs, while also creating more than a 1,000 jobs.

This move comes as cost of living pressures have reduced in the UK and will focus on refreshing smaller and more suburban pubs, which may typically have seen less footfall before the pandemic, as most pub-goers opted for bars situated in more central locations.

In a statement, Heineken said:  ‘With working from home more commonplace and people looking to save on travel, major refurbishments will concentrate on transforming tired pubs in suburban areas into premium locals.

“The revamps are designed to broaden each pub’s use and appeal, giving people additional reasons to visit. Subtle zoning will signpost pub-goers to the area likely to suit them best, enabling different groups of customers to simultaneously enjoy a variety of activities - from watching sports to dining - without disturbing each other.

“Dividing screens and distinct changes to lighting, sound systems and furniture styles will help delineate the zones. The new designs will have a stylish classic feel, providing longevity. Reflecting customers’ increased expectations, the projects will be carried out to a high standard and will impact every part of the pubs, from the toilets to the gardens.”

Could this mean a turnaround for the UK pub sector?

UK’s pubs have suffered considerably in the past few years, after being hit by closures during the pandemic and a surge in the cost of living resulting in reduced demand. Rising energy costs, as well as increasing product costs due to the ongoing Red Sea attacks have also contributed significantly to several pubs closing down or seeing declining fortunes lately.

Rising taxes in the last year on alcoholic beverages such as gin, vodka, wine and sherry has also considerably eroded profit margins for pubs, although tax respites on beer have gone some way to cap losses.

Heineken’s renovations are aimed at boosting pub use and as well as offering bars that are more tailored to customers and their changing requirements post-pandemic.

Lawson Mountstevens, managing director at Star Pubs said in a statement, “Pubs have proved their enduring appeal, after all the disruption of recent years, Star is on track to have the lowest number of closed pubs since 2019.

“It’s a tribute to the drive and entrepreneurship of licensees and the importance of continued investment. We’ve spent more than £200 million upgrading and maintaining our pubs over the last five years and we’ll continue to invest to keep them open and thriving.

“Time and again we see the value consumers place on having a good local and how important it is to communities. Pubs run by great licensees are here to stay, but like all locals, they need government support to reduce the enormous tax burden they shoulder.”

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