Regional brewery and pub chain snaps up “high-quality and well-respected” Bath gastropub business

September 14, 2023

The Bath Pub Company, which runs four of the city’s best-known pubs, has been acquired by St Austell Brewery, the parent group of Bath Ales.

Under the deal, Cornwall-based St Austell will take over The Marlborough Tavern, The Locksbrook Inn, The Moorfields and The Hare & Hounds, pictured below, bringing its number of pubs in Bath to eight.

The Bath Pub Company was launched 17 years ago by old school friends Justin Sleath and Joe Cussens, who developed a strong food and drink offering across its venues.

Starting with The Marlborough Tavern in Marlborough Buildings, it later added The Chequers on Rivers Street and The Hare & Hounds on Lansdown Road

In 2016 it took over the former Dolphin Inn on Locksbrook Road in Lower Weston, transforming it into a gastropub and renaming it The Locksbrook Inn.

The group called time on The Chequers in 2020 after running it for 10 years and winning a clutch of awards when it decided not to renew its lease.

Later that year opened The Moorfields in Oldfield Park following a £500,000 refurbishment which took account of Covid-related social distancing rules in place at that time.

The group, which in line with the rest of Bath’s hospitality industry had been hit hard by the pandemic, was then faced by soaring energy and food costs just as consumers were tightening their belts amid the cost of living crisis.

The Marlborough Tavern will continue to be operated by Justin Sleath as part of St Austell’s leased and tenanted estate while The Locksbrook Inn, The Moorfields and The Hare & Hounds have joined its managed pub portfolio.

Joe Cussens, who this week said he had no immediate plans to stay in the hospitality sector, described St Austell Brewery as “a fellow independent business, rooted in the West Country, which we have respected and admired for a long time”.

He added: “In fact, I first met Kevin Georgel back in 2006 when we initially took on The Marlborough Tavern. 

“Justin and I are very confident that, as a company which shares our values, St Austell Brewery is the custodian best suited for the next stage of The Bath Pub Company’s development.  

“We’re very proud of the business as it is today and know St Austell Brewery has the resources and know-how to grow it further to release the full potential of the pubs in the years to come.”

St Austell’s acquisition of Bath Ales in 2016 added city pubs The Hop Pole and The Salamander to its tenanted pub portfolio along with its brewery in Warmley and a local distribution network. It later it took over The Swan and The Griffin.

The Bath Pub Co deal means St Austell Brewery, whose beer brands include Tribute pale ale, Proper Job IPA and Korev lager, as well as Bath Ales’ beers such as Gem bitter, now has 184 pubs across the South West, with 43 of them in its managed pub estate. 

St Austell Brewery chief executive Kevin Georgel said: “We’re extremely proud to become the new owners of such a high-quality and well-respected pub company in Bath.

“We are fully committed to developing the quality and size of our pub estate. As such, we are investing significantly in our existing pubs, whilst also acquiring new sites and businesses, such as The Bath Pub Company. 

“The Locksbrook Inn, The Moorfields, The Hare & Hounds and The Marlborough Tavern all have a strong alignment with our long-term plans and are a perfect fit for us in terms of market and consumer positioning. 

“We’re looking forward to working closely with the team and building on Joe and Justin’s success in this next chapter.”

In April family-owned St Austell Brewery, which was established in 1851, launched a joint venture with the directors of London-based bar and restaurant group ETM to open a chain of premium sports bars across the West County under the Ludo Sports Bar & Kitchen brand.

The first Ludo site opened in Bath this summer in the former St Austell-operated Graze restaurant next to Bath Spa railway station.

Financial details of The Bath Pub Company acquisition have not been disclosed.


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