'Friendly' Billingham pub and 23 other drinking spots snapped up by national operator

The Smiths Arms, in Billingham
The Smiths Arms, in Billingham -Credit:Google

A "friendly" Billingham pub and 23 other drinking spots have been sold to a national operator

Last November, administrators were brought in to look after the Milton Portfolio Op Co 3, which included 25 pubs in the North-east and Yorkshire, formerly owned by Wear Inns and previously sold to Aprirose in 2018. One of these was The Smiths Arms, which faces onto the village green in Billingham and is known for its "nice atmosphere" and "great home-cooked food."

The sale, launched by commercial estate agents Avison Young and Watling Real Estate back in February, attracted a "high level of interest" from several operators. And now Punch Pubs and Co has snapped up 24 of the pubs, including the popular Smiths Arms, which remains open as normal.

Punch Pubs & Co - which is based in Burton-upon-Trent - is an independent pub company, and has around 1,300 pubs across the UK. It was recognised as the 'best leased and tenanted pub company' at the 2020 Publican Awards.

The sale - which Teesside Live previously reported here - attracted two rounds of competitive bids. But Punch Pubs and Co came out on top - and the only pub not included in the sale was The Victoria, in Whitley Bay, which was sold to Amber Taverns.

Operator 'to ensure pubs remain at heart of communities'

Punch Pubs and Co CEO Clive Chesser said: “We are delighted to have acquired these excellent pubs, and we are excited about the future as we welcome them into the Punch family. I would especially like to thank Kamran Aziz and the Queensway Advisory team, who continue to provide their management services as the pubs and their teams transfer into the Punch business.

“With the help of our industry-leading investment and support, we will ensure these pubs remain at the heart of their communities and continue to thrive for many years to come. We are looking forward to providing further updates as our plans progress.”

The 24 pubs are as follows:

  1. Black Bull, East Boldon

  2. Black Bull, Morpeth

  3. Britannia, Houghton-Le-Spring

  4. Cross Keys, Washington

  5. The Crown, Wickham

  6. Dirty Habit, Whitley Bay

  7. Elephant, Ashington

  8. Greens, Sunderland

  9. Guide Post Inn, Springwell Village

  10. Lambton Arms, Chester Le Street

  11. Lloyds Arms, Grimsby

  12. Millstone Hotel, Gosforth

  13. New Inn, Wetherby

  14. Old Courthouse, Barnsley

  15. Ox Inn, Oxhill

  16. Porter Cottage, Sheffield

  17. Prior, Doxford Park

  18. Priory, York

  19. Red Lion, Wakefield

  20. Ship & Royal, South Shields

  21. Smiths Arms, Billingham

  22. Sun Hotel, Shipley

  23. Whistle Stop, Beeston

  24. White Bear, Barnsley

Throughout the administration process, the pubs were operated by Queensway Advisory with overall trading performance exceeding the same period last year. The transaction was completed within a short time frame, Avison Young said.

Emma Turnbull, from Avison Young, said: “Interest exceeded our expectation which demonstrates that the market remains strong for the right pub product in, what is, considered to be a difficult trading environment. I look forward to following the progress of the pubs, many of which are local to me, as Punch gradually incorporate them into their portfolio whilst maintaining the management services of Queensway Advisory in the interim period.”

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