Le Cafe Anglais owner Charlie McVeigh is set to open a third venue in his growing Draft House pub estate, after putting an offer on a site in Tower Bridge, London.
The news follows the rebranding last month of McVeigh's pub, the Westbridge in Battersea, to the Draft House, making it the second site in the chain. The Tower Bridge site is thought to be a free-of-tie leasehold property, although McVeigh declined to give exact details until contracts were exchanged.
McVeigh said he hoped to grow the pub brand, which offers a wide range of unusual beers as well as serving food, to 10 sites within the next five years. The first Draft House opened in November last year in Clapham. He indicated that he would mostly target sites in upmarket urban locations, predominantly around west London. Other areas of interest include Portobello Road, the King's Road, Islington, Camden, Bermondsey and Shepherd's Bush.
"The foot traffic in Portobello Road is phenomenal - it would be the perfect location for us," McVeigh said.
But the growth of the chain is set to be limited by the fact that McVeigh is interested in leasehold properties, which will have to be free-of-tie because of the Draft House's philosophy of offering customers so many different beers to taste in small, one-third-pint measures.
"Our business relies on being free of tie and our expansion plan relies on access to failed sites with existing fitout. The problem is that there aren't many free-of-tie leases out there - they are like gold dust," McVeigh said.
"The pub ownership model is broken. It's a great shame and really sad for this country. The end result is that tied licensees can't make any money in a tied house. It is a law of diminishing returns - you have to use the cheapest beer, you can only pay the minimum wage, and eventually the pub has to close," he added.
By Neil Gerrard
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