Ex-Dragon's Den investor acquires London Cocktail Club

14 December 2020 by
Ex-Dragon's Den investor acquires London Cocktail Club

Nightcap, a new company led by hospitality entrepreneur and ex-Dragon's Den investor Sarah Willingham, has announced its intention to float on AIM and has agreed a deal to acquire the London Cocktail Club (LCC) group of bars.

Nightcap said its vision is to become the UK's leading bar operating group through acquiring, investing and expanding drinks-led hospitality concepts such as LCC, as the UK hospitality sector emerges from the challenging trading market.

The group will work with the existing LCC management team and shareholders to expand the business from 10 to a target of 40 sites, in London and other major UK cities, in the next five years.

In addition, Nightcap will look to acquire, recapitalise and roll out other high-quality, drinks-led bar brands that focus on how consumers will want to live and socially interact post-Covid.

Willingham, chief executive of the new group, is a co-founder of LCC, and an investor in and chair of Tonkotsu Group. Previously, following a management role at PizzaExpress, she went on to buy the Bombay Bicycle Club restaurant chain.

The Nightcap executive team also includes chief financial officer Toby Rolph, former finance director of cocktail bar chain Be At One, and founder and executive director Michael Toxvaerd, who previously co-founded and led NeutraHealth.

Nightcap's management team believes that there are exceptional growth opportunities in the hospitality sector, which can be unlocked by supporting and stabilising businesses emerging from the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite continued pressures faced by the sector, the board of Nightcap is confident that the premium bar market will return to growth, given the long-term demand for cocktails and social interaction in experience-led venues. With the increased availability of sites, more favourable rents and incentives from landlords, Nightcap management believes the group will be well-placed in the coming years.

Founded in 2010, LCC grew to 10 sites in London and Bristol and was founded by Willingham alongside JJ Goodman, Raymond Blanc, David Moore and James Hopkins.

Willingham said: "We are thrilled to be launching our IPO on AIM and to begin our mission of becoming the UK's leading bar group focussing on brands positioned to thrive in the post-Covid 2020s.

"I'm delighted that LCC is our first acquisition. It's a great business that I know very well – its model is proven, simple and replicable. LCC has continued to trade well when we have been allowed to open this year and we believe it has the potential for significant growth as we emerge from the Covid crisis. The company employs some incredible people and I am looking forward to working with them as we continue to grow the business together.

"Over the past decade, LCC has carved out its own niche in the capital's cocktail scene as a place for people to drink amazing cocktails prepared by an award-winning team of bartenders, while in the middle of a party. Its strong performance despite the challenges of this year underscores its appeal to consumers' desire for a safe, vibrant, party atmosphere and high-quality drinks."

The majority of LCC's current shareholders will roll their investment into the new vehicle, including LCC co-founder and head bartender JJ Goodman.

Goodman said: "I am looking forward to the next chapter for LCC. I believe this investment is going to help us to grow the business that I co-founded and enable it to reach its full nationwide potential. I'm so excited by our vision for Nightcap and LCC, which is why I've decided to roll over my shares."

Allenby Capital is acting as nominated adviser and broker to Nightcap on the initial public offering (IPO). The company plans to raise up to £6m of new money and is expected to have a post-money valuation of around £13m.

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