Brighton may have been trying to shrug off its image as “Chelsea by the Sea” since receiving City status in 2001. However, Brighton’s proximity to the capital is certainly of considerable benefit. The City, which welcomes 8.2 million visitors a year, a figure which dwarfs its 300,000 population, has numerous attractions. These include the Royal Pavilion, Brighton Pier, The Lanes, North Laine, Brighton Centre, Brighton Marina, Churchill Square Shopping Centre and Brighton Wheel. Exciting news is the i360 tower which we understand will be completed in 2015. Designed by Marks Barfield Architects, who conceived and designed the London Eye at 175 metres high, and with an observation pod rising to 141 metres, the i360 will be the highest observation tower outside of London, taller than the London Eye. It has also been announced that Alaska Development Consultants has revealed long speculated plans to transform the Hippodrome and Dukes Lane into an entertainment hub. The total cost is expected to be more than £18 million, and construction could start as early as this year should the planning application be successful. In addition to the many visitor attractions, the City hosts several major events including the Brighton Festival (the largest arts festival in England), Gay Pride, the London to Brighton Car Runs, and the new Brighton Marathon. Brighton is also the final destination of the London to Brighton Bike Ride (Europe’s largest charity cycling event). In September this year, the Tour of Britain cycle race will finish on the seafront (Sir Bradley Wiggins hopes to defend his title).
There is no doubt that the City has a vibrant scene, which is going from strength to strength and the leisure and hospitality market continues to be at the forefront of change and innovation.
Not surprisingly for one of the UK’s premier seaside resorts, the City of Brighton & Hove offers an eclectic mix and wealth of hotels, hostels and guest houses. The popularity of the City as a destination is demonstrated by performance results, with many businesses reporting 12 month occupancies upwards of 80%, much higher in some instances.
The City’s strong performance means it is a primary target location for many operators, evidenced by recent openings such as the 140 bedroom Ibis Hotel next to Brighton’s Railway Station and the 134 bedroom Brighton Student Hotel on Western Road. In addition, brands such as IHG’s boutique offering, Indigo, are rumoured to be looking at a site in the New England Quarter and other newly emerging groups are considering sites elsewhere in the City Centre.
The desirability of the City’s hotel sector is seen by both operators and investors, reflected by a spree of recent transactions (right).
Despite the difficult economic conditions that have prevailed during recent years, strong hotel trading performance suggests that guest demand continues to keep pace with supply, and recent transactional activity is testament to City’s appeal to operators and investors alike.
PUBS & BARS
Brighton offers something for everyone, ranging from the high street branded managed house operators such as Wetherspoons, Yates, All Bar One, Pitcher and Piano to iconic Victorian Inns and the rustic backstreet boozers, as well as the many quirky venues in between.
The market continues to be dominated by the independents, which is a large part of the City’s appeal, particularly to young professionals. Brighton & Hove City Council encourages diversity, ensuring an interesting mix of food and drink is available for both residents and visitors alike.
The City offers a number of established circuits, typically concentrated around the seafront, West Street, The Lanes and North Laine areas, generally within the prime city centre core. Prime opportunities that do arise often attract keen interest, for example, we recently sold the leasehold interest of OhSo Social, an independently operated restaurant/bar on the beach, to another Brighton operator off a guide price of £900,000.
However, with little or no movement in these core areas operators seeking representation in the City are looking further afield in areas that in the past were considered less salubrious, but are now experiencing the benefits of regeneration.
A good example of this is the London Road area, just to the north/east of the city centre core, which has experienced a handful of new openings and refurbishments. Loungers acquired a former blockbuster unit, Meat Liquor opened its first unit outside of London, the North Laine has been reopened by local multiple, InnBrighton, after several years of closure and Indigo has undertaken a major refurbishment of the Hare & Hounds, Preston Circus.
Brighton is fortunate to offer a number of home grown unbranded independent multiple leisure operators, including InnBrighton (48 sites), Indigo (18 sites) and Pleisure (8 sites), with others emerging and looking to grow.
The independent beer offering is a market which is also gathering pace, with the likes of InnBrighton and Indigo both moving into the craft beer revolution and exploring micro brewing alongside companies such as Craft Beer Company, Brighton Bier Company, Liberty Beer and BrewDog either acquiring or looking to acquire premises in the City.
The popularity of west Brighton/Hove is also attracting attention. Loungers acquired a second unit, a former Loch Fyne, City Pub Company has very recently acquired the Lion & Lobster on Sillwood Street for circa £4.5m and Brighton Bier Company, in a joint venture with Late Knights, have taken the Prince Arthur, just off Western Road.
From veggie treats and breakfast brunches to fine dining and tasty value options, Brighton is bursting with every international cuisine.
There is a strong independent presence in Brighton, however expanding branded and corporate restaurant operators are experiencing the draw of the city, many identifying Brighton as a key target for expansion. A good example is Meat Liquor, whose chose Brighton as the location for its first site outside of Central London.
In addition are the expanding independent multiples. A good example is Ben McKellar, who has been operating in and around Brighton for many years. In addition to the original Gingerman Restaurant in Norfolk Square, he has added the Ginger Pig, Hove Street, Ginger Fox, Muddleswood Road and, most recently, the Ginger Dog in Kemp Town.
Another notable newcomer is Velo Café, a cycling café & repair workshop built in a new unit in The Level – a redeveloped park near the London Road regeneration area.
The city also boasts restaurants that have traded for decades, such as Havana, Duke Street; Pinocchio, New Road; Terre a Terre, East Street and Al Duomo by the Royal Pavilion, proving the longevity of trade that is possible in Brighton.
Not to be overlooked is Brighton Marina. Following the assignment of the former Strada unit on the boardwalk, the first Coast to Coast is now thriving and with Nandos taking on a previously independent bar/club, the Marina now arguably offers the highest density of corporate branded restaurants in the city.
Please visit www.fleurets.com/market-intel.html to access the complete Brighton Leisure Focus