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Licensing reform affects improved trading at Regent Inns

07 February 2006

Preparations for liquor licensing reform dampened late-night bar operator Regent Inn's recovery in the second half of 2005.

Despite this, pre-tax profit in the 26 weeks to 31 December soared by 357% to £6.4m, from £1.4m in the same period of 2004.

Turnover fell 2.1% to £65.8m due to disposals and closures in the period.

Chief executive Bob Ivell said a good start to the year had not continued due to the burden of preparing for licence reform in England and Wales, which took effect last November.

"As a responsible operator we have been anxious to minimise our compliance risks and ensure good relationships with the police and licensing authorities, even if this has a short-term cost implication," said Ivell.

"We believe that our cautious approach has been in the best long-term interests of the business as we are intent on demonstrating that our venues are well controlled and managed."

Ivell said that long-term Regent would look at securing longer licence extentions to improve trading.

Voluntary and imposed measures linked to liecensing included reducing capacity and trading hours at certain venues, substantial increases in door security, and introducing plastic bottles and glasses.

During the year the operator spent £5.7m on refurbishment, expanded its drinks range, and refinanced the business with a five-year £100m bank debt facility.

Although it was outbid for rival operators Urbium and Inventive Leisure, Ivell said Regent would continue to seek "value-enhancing consolidation opportunities".

Company profile: Regent Inns >>

By Angela Frewin

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