Saturday, August 23, 2008

Canal Pub: The Ship Lathom

In 2002 Ajmail and Sudarghara Dusanj saved Liverpool’s Cains brewery from closure when they acquired it from the Danish Brewery Group. The brewery had previously been owned by Whitbread and the site was once owned by Higsons whose name appears in the Victorian terracotta on the building.
In May 2007 Cains Beer Company was created when Robert Cain & Co Brewery acquired Honeycombe Leisure in a reverse takeover. Honeycombe Leisure was a pub estate with about 100 pubs. The take-over was funded by the Bank of Scotland who provided £40million in total, £30million in a loan and £5million working capital and £5million for refurbishing pubs.
The new company had an estate of about 115 pubs, most of which were leasehold. The Dusanj brothers own 10 of the pubs Cains Beer Company leased, with 44 others being owned by Punch Taverns and Admiral Taverns. The company owns some 26 freehold pubs.
The cost to the company of servicing the interest on its debt to the Bank of Scotland rose from £66,000 a year ago to £1.2million in the latest 6 months. The Cains Beer Company announced half-year losses of £4.6million this year and lost the confidence of its backers. With debts of between £40 and £45 million the company went into administration. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP were appointed as joint administrators.
The brewery itself is owned by a company belonging to the Dusanj brothers. The site was leased to the Cains Beer Company for £0.5million per year.
The brewing and canning side of the business is likely to be sold to either the Dusanj brothers or to Marstons. The brewery produced mostly own-label beer for supermarkets etc (58%), also contract brewing (14%) and the rest was Cains beer. Cains beer was increasingly popular and appeared on the shelves of major supermarkets. Cains beer was a sponsor of the Tall Ships and a part of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture year.
Most of the pubs leased by Cains Beer Company will be returned to the pub groups who own them. PricewaterhouseCoopers has started closing down pubs it says are making a loss. The freehold pubs are to be sold off. The Cains Beer Company employed 900 people in pubs and 100 in the brewery.
The Ship Inn or Blood Tub at Lathom near the top lock of the Rufford Branch was leased by Cains Beer Company. PricewaterhouseCoopers have closed it down and returned it to its owners Punch Taverns Ltd. Its manager of the last six years, Les Bentham has had to tell his staff they have lost their jobs. Punch Taverns offered him the chance to stay on in the pub, which is his home as well as his business but he cannot afford the £10,000 deposit and £2,500 a week rent the want.
The former landlord said that trade had declined since Cains took over the pub, replacing real ale with their own Cains beers. Reviews of the pub on were all bad since the take over. All reviewers lamented the once great pub and blamed Cains for the drop in quality. However to be fair to the Cains Beer Company many of the criticisms were to do with the way the pub was run and its cleanliness rather than the beer on sale.
Punch Taverns, owners of the Ship Inn are looking for another licensee to take over running the Ship Inn. Hopefully the pub will re-open soon and be great once again.
I hope that the Dusanj brothers can buy the Cains brewing business and carry on producing popular good quality beers. Hopefully this time they wont feel the temptation to jump into the deep end of the pub owning business.

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